Ah, spring books. They are full of joyous things: there are flowers, there are bunnies, there are cupcakes and sunshine. There are adventures, capers, and songs. Of course, you occasionally get the extra syllable stuffed uncomfortably into a rhyming couplet, a heavy-handed moral, an illustration trapped in the gutter...but all good and mediocre picture books pale in comparison with my newest favorite.
Drumroll please. I give you:
A BALLOON FOR ISABEL by Deborah Underwood.
This is the tale of a kindergarten graduate who desperately wants a balloon at graduation - but isn't allowed one because she is a porcupine. Her predicament, her friendships, her waving quills, her series of creative solutions to her predicament: everything in this book is smart and endearing, but never overly clever or saccharine. You will sympathize, you will laugh, and you will crave gumdrops. It is, in a word, fresh. Its audience doesn't even need to be strictly graduates (of any age), it appeals to all of us who dream the impossible, and as humans, how can we not?