cover image Are We Still Friends?

Are We Still Friends?

Ruth Horowitz, illus. by Blanca Gómez. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-545-64521-8

Beatrice, a bear beekeeper, is best friends with her neighbor Abel, a mouse who grows apple trees. In winter, when “the bees and the trees rested,” their friendship endures: “Side by side, they spread crispy toast with apple butter, and sipped warm tea with honey,” writes Horowitz (Crab Moon). Gómez (Dear Bunny) brings to life this idyllic, tidy world with digital illustrations reminiscent of cut-paper art; her lines and shapes have a cheery, direct crispness. Then a misunderstanding triggers a cascade of scowls, insults (“Fuzz Brain!” “Wormy Core!”), and petty revenge, before the two patch things up. This ostensibly familiar story about crossed wires and stubbornness takes on deeper meaning, thanks to the presence of tiny and seemingly subsidiary characters who put the brouhaha in perspective: the bees. Unconcerned with Abel and Beatrice’s wrangling, they continue “sipping nectar and spreading pollen, just the same as always.” Without dismissing their characters’ emotions, Horowitz and Gómez alert readers to a core truth: whatever our trivial disputes, the world keeps spinning. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Linda Epstein, Emerald City Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Feb.) [/em]