Vanilla Ice Cream

illus. by Bob Graham. 40p. Candlewick. 2014. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9780763673772. LC 2013952841.
K-Gr 2—A sparrow from a truck stop in India stows away in a sack of rice and ends up aboard a ship heading to a faraway port. Once in the big city, his curiosity leads him to a park where he encounters a family and a series of random occurrences that cause their dog to knock a vanilla ice cream cone onto the baby's lap, her first taste of the treat. Although Graham is clearly a very skilled illustrator, the disparate elements of this rather existential story highlighting the butterfly effect seem too esoteric to hold the interest of young readers. The unnamed sparrow is depicted with lovely realism in both the text and the ink and watercolor art but without much expression or personality. The book design offers a variety of perspectives along with brief snippets of text, including various size panels, spot art, single-page images, and full-page spreads. Despite the technical merit of tenderly sketched characters and dramatic spreads depicting the voyage with grandeur, this quirky but ephemeral picture book should be reserved for Graham's most ardent fans.—Erin Reilly-Sanders, Ohio State University, Columbus
What's the relationship between a samosa stand somewhere in India and an outdoor café somewhere in Australia? What's the link between young Annisha and Suhani, playing hopscotch in the dust, and baby Edie in her stroller? The answer: one small sparrow. In this quiet book, Graham's signature theme--connection--remains vibrant and joyous; his loving portraits portray people of all shapes, sorts, and conditions.
A spirited rumination on travel, adventure, interconnectedness, and the magic of small moments. As always, Bob Graham’s illustrations are a pleasure to behold. He is equally effective at portraying cityscapes and small, everyday details such as a bird pecking at crumbs at a café table and a grandfather tickling his granddaughter. The spare prose lets the artwork carry the story, and gives the book a cinematic quality. Its clean layout—with some art appearing in panels, and white space on many of the pages—puts the emphasis on the characters’ movements across each spread and their fleeting, but meaningful, interactions. Edie’s accidental introduction to vanilla ice cream works as an age-appropriate introduction to the butterfly effect, and may inspire kids to think about how seemingly random events are connected.
What is the relationship between the first setting of this book, a samosa-stand truck stop somewhere in India, and the last, an outdoor cafe somewhere in Australia? What is the link between young Annisha and Suhani, playing hopscotch in the dust, and baby Edie Irvine, buckled into her stroller? The answer is: one small sparrow. The bird, who "follows the food," hitches a ride on a truck carrying rice and then on a freighter traveling south. He ends up on the edge of a cafe table. A dog jumps up. A leash goes taut. A granddad's ice-cream cone goes flying into baby Edie's lap, and her "life changes forever" as she gets her first taste of vanilla ice cream. Just so are all our lives expanded by strings of random events. This is a quieter book than some of Graham's other titles, but his signature theme, that of connection, remains vibrant and joyous, and we are treated again to his particular loving portraits of people of all shapes, sorts, and conditions. What makes the whole world one? A shared love of snacking (and that distinctive Graham nose). sarah ellis

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