April 19, 2012

Charming Opal

Charming Opal
By Holly Hobbie; illus. by author
No Author Site
3-4 Preschool Primary Little Brown 32 pp.
0316366331 Hardcover $15.95

Charming Opal is the sixth installment of Holly Hobbie's Toot and Puddle series, and a lovely addition it is. Opal, Puddle's little cousin, comes to visit Toot and Puddle in Woodcock Pocket bearing her first loose tooth. Toot offers to help it come out (an offer made while fingering a piece of string he's tied to the kitchen doorknob), but Opal, with admirable self-possession, replies that she would rather it come out "all by itself". The trio goes about having a lovely day together, all under the influence of Opal's calm, good-natured anticipation. In fact, "good-natured" is the perfect way to qualify the heart of Opal's charm. She is simply good natured - as good natured as Toot and Puddle are. When her tooth pops and is lost during a dive into the pond, she doesn't throw a tantrum as many kids would. She accepts the disappointment though her ears droop and a few tears fall, until Toot (wearing snorkel gear) comes to the rescue and retrieves it from the bottom of the pond. Then the wait for the tooth fairy begins, and yet more good natured-ness ensues when Puddle, concerned that the Tooth Fairy won't come, dresses up in a cape and shower cap and decides to do the job. Hobbie trods delicate ground here - does the Tooth Fairy exist and will she come for Opal? It turns out despite Puddle's worries, the Tooth Fairy comes through and leaves Opal a shiny new quarter for her tooth.

Everything about Charming Opal is soothing and quietly ebullient. Opal is the 4 year old everyone wishes they had without being false or saccharine, and Toot and Puddle treat her with gentle respect. It's a wonderful book that covers milestone issues (first teeth, Tooth Fairy existence and even vacations away from home and parents) with a light hand and a reassuring touch. Hobbie's illustrations support the well paced text. Though they are softly pastel with lots of white space, the pictures make Woodcock Pocket feel safe and cozy, while Opal, Toot and Puddle are rendered with so much sensitivity, all three are pigs you would want to know. A great book for older preschoolers, Charming Opal is sure to charm.

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