Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Story of Diva and Flea

The Story of Diva and Flea

Mo Willems
Illustrator:   Tony DiTerlizzi 
For ages 7 to 9
Disney-Hyperion, 2015   ISBN: 978-1484722848

Diva is a very small white dog who lives in an elegant apartment building in Paris. She lives on the ground floor with the gardienne, who takes care of the building, inside and out. Being the gardienne’s dog means that Diva is “practically responsible” for the whole building, and the courtyard in front of the building as well. Every day Diva stands in the courtyard and she guards and watches. If anything happens, Diva yelps and runs away.

Flea is a very large cat who lives on the streets of Paris. He is a flaneur, which means that he wanders around Paris “just to see what there is to see.” He sits and watches people sitting and watching other people. He notices how all the people are drinking “Cough – Fee” and marvels at this strange behavior. He also notices when a woman in a shop drops a large slice of salami on the floor. Flea moves so fast that he is able to swipe the meat before The Man with the Broom can chase him.

On this same fortuitous day Flea also discovers the courtyard where Diva lives. As soon as Diva sees Flea she yelps and runs away, which, not surprisingly, makes Flea laugh. Flea then makes a point of coming to the courtyard most afternoons to see the small dog yelp and run away from him.

Then on day Diva stands her ground. She tells Flea that he is hurting her feelings doing what he is doing, which rather surprises Flea. It never occurred to him that his laughter could be hurtful. When Diva comes into the courtyard the next day she sees that there is a dead mouse near the front step. Flea then explains that he brought Diva the mouse as a peace offering to show Diva that he is sorry for laughing.

Diva is so touched by this gift that she and Flea become friends. Flea tells her about his life as a flaneur. Diva is fascinated by his stories as she has never left her courtyard and the thought of being out there where there are all those large and terrifying feet appalls her. Diva’s reaction when she sees “FEET!” is to turn tail and run. When you are a very small and squishable dog, feet are very frightening things.

One day, after telling Diva one of his stories of exploration, Flea suggests that Diva could become a flaneur too. Diva cannot believe it. How could she become a flaneur? She has never been anywhere, but at the same time she would love to see “the giant tower that can cut a cloud in half.” The idea of leaving the safety of her courtyard terrifies Diva, but Diva finally takes that first little step, never suspecting that her courage will inspire Flea to take a first step too.

This delightful story celebrates a friendship that grows in wonderful ways. It also explores the ways in which two very different characters face the things that frighten them and we see how they overcome those fears to discover wonderful new experiences.

Throughout the book Tony DiTerlizzi’s expressive artwork bring Diva, Flea and their Paris world to life.