Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cool Together! One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

Elliot was a very proper young man.

So, on Saturday, when his father said, "Family day at the aquarium. Shall we go?"

Elliot thought, Kids, masses of noisy kids.

But he only said, "Of course; thank you for inviting me."

At the aquarium, Elliot's father is the quintessential detached dad, plopping onto a bench and instantly lost in his National Geographic, leaving Elliot, sober in his dark suit and formal bow tie, to his own devices. Eschewing the usual kid-pleasing, squeal-producing, hands-on exhibits, he takes the road not taken, down a quiet hall to a display that takes his breath away.


In their tidy black feather tuxedos, with their proper posture, the penguins reminded Elliot of himself.

Even Ferdinand Magellan looked like his kind of guy.

Suddenly Elliot falls in love with one little penguin, whom he christens "Magellan," and hot foots it back to where his dad is still reading.

"Are you having fun?" Dad asks.

"Yes, thank you. May I have a penguin?"

Absentmindedly, Dad's glance falls on the museum shop's Today's Special poster advertising large plush penguins for only $19.95. Peeling off a twenty, Dad generously agrees to the seemingly reasonable request and goes back to his article. And the amazed Elliot is off on his mission of penguin adoption, giving the amiable Magellan a ride home in his backpack.

Back home, Elliot sets out to make Magellan comfortable in his room, where he turns the heat down low enough to turn his plastic wading pool into a skating rink for his new pet. In the window comes the garden hose to fill the pool. "GRACK," says Magellan gratefully. With his buddy settled in, Elliot requests permission to head for the library to do some research on a school report on, um, Ferdinand Magellan.

"When I was in fourth grade, I got Captain Cook," his dad remarks companionably from his map-plastered study.

Back from his fact-finding mission on Magellanic penguins, Elliot requests frozen pizza for his dinner, and after apologetically pointing out that all they have is anchovy pizza, his father goes back to his own research, and Elliot zips back to his own room with his frigid result of his foraging for Magellan's dinner.

All is cozy and cool up in Elliot's room, with Magellan stuffed on anchovies and swimming contently in a tub floating with ice cubes, until his Dad blunders into the bathroom and discovers just what kind of penguin his son has broght home.


But all's well that ends well, when Elliot discovers that he has another soul mate in his family besides Magellan in Toni Buzzeo's delightful new book, One Cool Friend (Dial Books, 2012), as his father reveals his own unusual pet in a surprising (but deftly foreshadowed) ending that will leave kids satisfied and grinning from ear to ear.

Caldecott winner David Small turns out the perfect illustrations for Buzzeo's skillfully written text with just right touches of humor throughout to make this a not-to-be-missed new offering for the new year. In addition to the boy-brings-home-unusual-pet premise, there is another subtle theme here, felt more than stated, as the Publishers Weekly reviewer slyly points out: "Though very much a boy-and-his-pet story, it’s just as much about two gentlemen who appear to be orbiting entirely different planets. The revelation that they’re not so dissimilar after all is about as sweet as it gets."

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