Wild One by Jane Whittingham and illustrated by Noel Tuazon is just adorable.
See exhibit A:
See also (exhibit B) the plot, as aptly described on the back cover:
This wild one can stretch like a cat, hang like a bat, and hop like a hare. At the end of a long day she’ll even snuggle like a bear in her cozy bed.
Which is, pretty much, it: a young girl plays at the park, imaginatively becoming a series of animals according to her activity. This imaginative engagement continues as her mum leads her home, through dinner and evening games all the way until her parents tuck her into bed.
And it’s in RHYME.
Rhyming stories are notoriously difficult to pull off well without seeming forced; most publishers won’t touch them. Here, they flow – and still manage to surprise.
Part of Wild One‘s ability to surprise, even for older readers who know that a) there’s an animal coming up, and b) it’s going to rhyme and fit within the line’s rhythm, is the clever use of page turns. On the right-hand page is the first line, which establishes what the girl is doing …
… and the reader must turn the page to read the next line, which shows who (or what) our protagonist is being at that moment.
It’s a structural device which serves the narrative well. Also, have you ever seen a cuter eel? Actually, have you ever seen an eel at all in a picturebook? (I like this eel.)
Whittingham’s smooth rhyme and consistent rhythm are beautifully matched with the illustrations. Tuazon catches the expressions of a child on adventure just so, and his animals make this reader smile with every page. (That whale!) The watercolours brighten the page while suggesting the blending of everyday and imagination – watercolours, like Let’s Pretend and other imaginative games, never truly stay within the lines.
The endpages are gorgeous.
Full disclosure: the author is a good friend; in fact, she’s our own Book Warrior and librarian extraordinaire Jane.