Charlie and Lola: Say Cheese!
By Lauren Child
32 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0803730953
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
In the latest addition to the popular Charlie and Lola picture book series, Say Cheese!, the pair get ready for school picture day. While Lola's slightly anxious about it, since she knows how much her mother would like her to look neat and clean for the school picture, she's been told she's a "good smiler," so how hard can it be?
Lola's efforts to remain neat and clean throughout the long school day until picture time are foiled again and again though, despite Lola's best intentions and to great comic effect. She inadvertently steps in a puddle, ends up wearing her pink milk at lunchtime, and gets paint on her face, resulting in a school photo of which it can be said that yes, at least she was definitely a good smiler. With the creative and resourceful Charlie at the ready though, Lola finds a way to fulfill her desire to make her mother proud that she was presentable for school pictures.
Charlie and Lola, characters created by Lauren Child and featured in this story based on a television script by Samantha Hill for the animated "Charlie and Lola" TV program, are just as endearing and charming in this picture book as they have been in previous titles and on television as well. The appreciable consistency of the characters, storylines, writing style, and illustrations is comforting and familiar to young readers -- Charlie and Lola are like old friends who've come for another visit. Charlie, the sensible older brother, and Lola, the energetic and big-thinking younger sister, are a well-matched pair whose ordinary ups and downs are just like those of their readers. The long-running series of stand-alone titles reflect ordinary kids' adventures and concerns (lost teeth, a dislike of tomatoes, the first day of school, etc.) with empathy and humor.
The strongly comic element to Say Cheese! holds the interest of young readers and Lola's desire to please her mother as well as her anxiety about being prepared for her very first school picture day are most certainly shared experiences among Lola and readers.
The dialogue and text are extremely close in style and format to the original Lauren Child titles and the television show. The illustrations, again, still in keeping with Lauren Child's original designs and adapted from the animated TV series, are bright and visually interesting, featuring color and texture while reflecting the action in the text. The dialogue is funny and realistic, childlike without being childish. The self-reliance of Charlie and Lola is admirable and encourages to young readers to think creatively in regard to problem-solving.
Fans of the books or TV program won't be disappointed with this new adventure, while new readers will find much to keep them interested, both in the story and in the artwork. And with luck, school picture day will go more smoothly for your child than it does for Lola!
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