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*Bobbie Dazzler* by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Janine Dawson
Also illustrated by Janine Dawson:

Motorbike Bob (Pet Vet, Book 3)
Bobbie Dazzler
by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Janine Dawson
Ages 4-8 32 pages Kane/Miller September 2007 Hardcover    

The saying "practice makes perfect" even applies to wallabies attempting the splits. Bobbie, a red-furred wallaby can perform a far- above- the- ground- bounce, a dizzying twirl, and a perfect headstand. Her legs give her great lift, and her strong tail helps her stay balanced. When it comes to talent, Bobbie has got it from the back of her heels to the very top of her head. There is one skill, though, that eludes her, and that’s the splits. Not one to quit so easily, Bobbie continues trying until one day her sliiiiiiddddde turns into the splits. Bobbie’s victory soon turns into everyone’s victory!

Janine Dawson uses pen and ink and watercolors to create the illustrations for Bobbie Dazzler. Bobbie’s energetic acrobatics are drawn against a white background, keeping the focus on Bobbie and her amazing abilities. There is a little patch of sandy land under her feet and Native Australian plants grow around the sides, but our focus is on Bobbie as her tail and feet and arms extend her body across the middle of the pages.

Koala is the first friend we see in this story, and he’s sympathetic to Bobbie’s troubles. After Bobbie fails another splits attempt, Koala leans over a tipped-over Bobbie with his hands extended to help. When Bobbie gets up and goes under a tree to mope, Koala goes, too. Their backs are turned to us, but we know how they are feeling. Their postures are curved and rounded, their heads are down. Even the tree under which the friends sit reflects Bobbie’s sadness. The overhead leaves droop and leave a gray-spotted shadow behind. This dreary color seems to drape over the two animals and cling to Bobbie’s fur.

When Bobbie tries the splits again, beginning with a new series of gymnastic moves, Koala is right there admiring Bobbie’s talents. The two friends feel an excitement about life again, and this excitement extends into the surroundings. The bushes are flowering, the stems and leaves are a brilliant red, and the lizard is smiling. When Bobbie’s second attempt at the splits fail, along comes another animal to lend support. The animals do have fun spending time with Bobbie as she demonstrates more advanced moves. Sometimes the friends play cards nearby, sometimes they get themselves into better positions to watch, and sometimes they try their own moves. When Bobbie finally does the splits correctly, the illustrator uses a two-page spread to highlight the success. In the background, Koala, Wombat, and Possum's exuberance shows in their gigantic smiles and excited jumps.

The animals in this book are round all over - plump like stuffed toys. Their eyes are simple dots when open and curves when closed, but with differing placements of eyebrows, their feelings are easily understood. Bobbie Dazzler is an uplifting story. We always see the smiles and happy faces, whereas the frowns and frustrated feelings are more hidden and subtle with backs turned or mouths hidden. When the animals fail at their maneuvers, they actually look a little helpless - and sometimes surprised - instead of looking annoyed and distressed.

Dawson uses light colors and loose lines, and this fits with the feel of the story. Bobbie and her friends have a carefree, positive attitude, even throughout their failures. There is even a little lizard watching on several pages - those with a keen eye might pick him out. He reminds us that we should be aware of our behaviors because we might be a source of inspiration at any time for those who are watching us.

The idea for Bobbie Dazzler came about when the author was watching her own granddaughter try the splits. Margaret Wild lives in Australia and has written over forty books for children, including Tom Goes to Kindergarten and Nighty Night! Her first young adult novel is called Jinx. Illustrator Janine Dawson has worked all over the world in film animation and education, among other fields. You can see her illustrations in the Lily Quench series, the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series, and the picture book Pudding and Chips.

The splits are hard to do, but Bobbie Dazzler is full of perseverance. What a positive thinker. I highly recommend this book.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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