Pros: Fun story with beautiful illustrations
Cons: A few pages were heavy on the text
Good childrens book writers are gifted storytellers. They have a feel for the rhythm, the words, and the pacing of a story that can enthrall, charm, and give the child something to think or laugh about long after the book is done. These bards can spin tales around characters who jump out of the pages and become our lifelong friends as real as any playmate.
For all those reasons, childrens picture books have maintained their appeal to me, despite being decades past the target age. Granted, not all childrens books contain the magic of a good story, but when they do, it makes all the reading worthwhile.
Lydia Griffin has catapulted to that position of sacred bard with her alluring book, BeBa and the Curious Creature Catchers, published in 2006. Young Beba's exuberant compassion and problem-solving charm her readers as she makes plans to rescue Zilly the Zebroose (a cross between a zebra and a moose) from the catchers of curious creatures who want to trap him and sell him to "mean people."
BeBa has a magic soda pop straw that she uses to protect the animals living near her. Infused in the plans she devises are subtle messages about the beauty of diversity, the necessity of interconnectivity, and the power of courage. Griffin employs a light touch, though, and never resorts to sermonizing.
Stephanie Lostimolo's vivid paintings work in tandem with the text, providing bright colors and unique creatures that blaze forth from her imagination. Her creatively chosen creatures speak of her rich fantasy experience. Lostimolo is a digital colorist who has worked extensively with George Lucas, including as a part of the team that colored Star Wars: Episode III and Simon and Schuster's The Katurran Odyssey. She also provides concept designs for such film studios as Paramount and Miramax. It's easy to see within the pages of Beba why her work is in such high demand.
BeBa is a spirited girl whom Griffin has brought to life in the finest traditions of storytelling. The illustration on the final page of this 32-page books hints that we can expect more BeBa stories. I, for one, will be on the lookout for them.