No Mountain High Enough! Friends by Eric Carle
ONCE THERE WERE TWO FRIENDS WHO WERE ALWAYS TOGETHER.
TOGETHER THEY PLAYED AND RAN
AND DANCED AND TOLD EACH OTHER SECRETS.
BUT ONE DAY THE BOY WAS ALL ALONE. HIS FRIEND HAD GONE.
When his best friend moves away, the boy determines that someday, somehow, he will find her.
And then, at the dawn of someday, he sets out.
He swims a swift, cold river and sleeps under the stars.
Ahead is a tall mountain he must get over.
FINALLY HE GOT TO THE TOP, AND THEN...HE SLID RIGHT DOWN THE OTHER SIDE. PLUNK!
The way gets easier as the boy strolls through a flowery meadow, but then rain falls, Splish Splash! and a thunderstorm strikes. EEEK!
He dreams of searching for his friend, lost in a huge crowd, wakes, and goes ahead, sure that she will be waiting when he gets there, wherever there is.
And there is a happy reunion in Eric Carle's latest, Friends (Philomel Books, 2013), and in the best tradition of long-lost lovers, there is a flower-filled wedding for the separated soulmates on Carle's last page. Aglow with the artist's trademark tissue-paper collages, the river swirls with blue and green tones, the meadow is afloat with daisies, the rainstorm is streaked with deep purples and grays, and the groom's pinstriped morning suit and the bride's flower-strewn wedding gown echo their childhood selves as the story comes full circle. The artist remarks that his opening and closing illustrations are deliberately conventional, while he uses increasingly abstract images to delineate the metaphoric quest for lost love. There is a bittersweet note in Carle's afterword, with his words about the death of his lifelong companion, his wife, and the faded sepia picture of Carle at age six with his best friend, a best friend that indeed remains lost to him forever.
Carle's work, from his evergreen, beloved-of-toddlers best-seller, The Very Hungry Caterpillar to his semi-autobiographical account of art under the Nazis, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Eric Carle is our own old master of the art of the picture book. Of this one, Kirkus says, "...children will identify with the longing to be with distant loved ones and will revel in the sheer joy of Carle's forms, colors and textures."