Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It Takes Two: Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

It takes two to tango!

But Flamingo looks down his nose (quite a honker there) at the chubby Flora, apparently enchanted with his elegant one-legged pose, balanced awkwardly on one swim fin, the other flapping as she wobbles. Caught in the act of copycatting, Flora nonchalantly looks away as if unaware of the tall pink bird in front of her.

But when Flamingo haughtily high-steps away, Flora follows suit. Flamingo performs a perfect arabesque, and Flora struggles for the proper straight-legged extension.

In Molly Idle's exquisite lift-the-flap, wordless book, body language tells the tale. At first miffed by this awkward imitator, Flamingo's moves flow with elegant ease into his sleeping pose, one leg folded up and head under wing, and Flora forces her body into her own imperfect version. Flamingo steals a peek from under his wings.

And it's game on, with Flamingo challenging Flora into poses that are difficult for her, head down, peering at him through her legs and slipping into a not-go-graceful somersault.  Flora turns her back to the big bird, blushing at her faux pas, as Flamingo seems to reconsider his moves.  Finally, he beckons to her with one wing. Flora follows again.

Flamingo leads his pupil in a plie' and a lovely eleve', and the two, a tall pink flamingo, and a tubby girl in pink swimsuit, yellow swimcap, and floppy flippers finally perform a more than passable pas de deux.

It's huge fun, and the two celebrate their finale with splashing cannonballs into the water!  Ballet partners and friends at last!

Molly Idle's expressive illustrations for her wordless Flora and the Flamingo (Chronicle Books, 2013) earned her a 2014  Caldecott Honor Award.  In a controlled palette of pinks, with just a bit of brown for Flamingo's beak and Flora's flippers and a fresco of pink blossoming branches across page tops and a bit of spot art of pale pink water lilies, Idle puts her two unlikely partners in action as they perform a lively duet.  Idle uses the flap device to advance the plot, letting her characters' subtle movements tell the story in increments, as Flora's steps become more and more skilled. A four-page gatefold spread shows the two hitting the water, derrieres first, opening to two glorious, giggling splashes, and the book closes as the two salute each other with a graceful reverence as Flamingo bows, and Flora drops a charming curtsy to her teacher.

Brava, Molly Idle!

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