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'Bartleby Speaks!'

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[February 03, 2010]  "Bartleby Speaks!" by Robin Cruise, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, 32 pages, ages 3-7.

Review by
Louella Moreland

Here at the library we adore picture books! It is a privilege to experience how a young reader truly understands a story long before the symbols on the pages have any meaning for them. Watch them! Eyes become large, glued to the page, seeking out every detail the illustration has to offer. Smiles and laughter erupt spontaneously. The joy of reading comes very early, especially with books that explore children's perspectives of their world. "Bartleby Speaks!" is a good example of great picture book presentation.

Bartleby Huddle is happy. Bartleby Huddle is sweet. Bartleby Huddle is quiet… very quiet. In fact, Bartleby Huddle does not say a word, no matter how hard his family tries to get him to speak. Mother sings opera. Papa plays his cello. Sister Isadora tap dances. Even Ludwig the dog tries to get Bartleby to speak. But Bartleby smiles and happily goes about playing… quietly. The Huddles take him to the doctor, thinking something must be very wrong. There isn't. In all ways but this one he is a normal, happy toddler. Grandpa thinks that Bartleby just doesn't seem to have anything he wants to say.

So goes this lovely picture book, "Bartleby Speaks!" by Robin Cruise. I loved this book with its noisy, over-the-top family and quiet, curious Bartleby. I loved the connection between Bartleby and his grandfather. I also loved that Bartleby doesn't speak until he has something important to say.

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Doesn't this book speak volumes about our very busy, very noisy and crowded world that we live in? Might we also miss out on a butterfly as it quietly flies by, or the creak of a porch swing on a spring day with the lilac bush softly swishing its fragrant blooms in the air? This book invites us to slow down, listen and enjoy what simple things have to offer us while still embracing the chaos and noise of our lives.

Kevin Hawkes' illustrations draw us into Bartleby's family and life, both noisy and small. They complement the storyline to perfection. Grandpa looks like an older Bartleby with button nose, big ears and knowing grin. Next to the rest of the family with open mouths and wide arm gestures, we instantly see that Grandpa and Bartleby are kindred spirits. Grandpa and Bartleby enjoy being quiet together. Just as we expect, Bartleby does speak when he is ready, when he has something important to say.

Don't miss this lovely story by Robin Cruise and Kevin Hawkes. There are more wonderful books to explore on the shelves of the Youth Services Department at the Lincoln Public Library.

[Text from file received from Louella Moreland, Lincoln Public Library District]

(Ms. Lou's blog:

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