May 26, 2015 in Books

The Story of Diva & Flea

Diva, a small yet brave dog, and Flea, a curious streetwise cat, develop an unexpected friendship in this unforgettable tale of discovery.

For as long as she could remember, Diva lived at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, France. For as long as he could remember, Flea also lived in Paris, France-but at no fixed address. When Flea flaneurs past Diva’s courtyard one day, their lives are forever changed. Together, Diva and Flea explore and share their very different worlds, as only true friends can do.

Mo Willems (www.pigeonpresents.com), a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, has been awarded a Caldecott Honor on three occasions (for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity). Dont Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! was also an inaugural inductee into the Indies Choice Picture Book Hall of Fame. The celebrated Elephant & Piggie early-reader series has been awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal on two occasions (for There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Are You Ready to Play Outside?) as well as garnering four Honors (for We Are in a Book!, I Broke My Trunk!, Let’s Go for a Drive! and A Big Guy Took My Ball!)

Tony DiTerlizzi, a number-one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, created the middle-grade series The Spiderwick Chronicles with Holly Black, which has sold millions of copies, been translated into more than 30 languages and made into a feature film. He won a Caldecott Honor for illustrating The Spider & The Fly, and in 2014 he teamed up with Lucasfilm to retell the original Star Wars trilogy in a picture book featuring artwork by Academy award-winning concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife, daughter and dog, Mimi.


☆ Diva is a tiny white dog who lives in a grand, old apartment building in Paris, France. As the pet of the building’s gardienne, she patrols the courtyard, making sure that all is well. Flea, on the other hand, is a large cat who roams Paris’ streets. He is a great flâneur—“someone (or somecat) who . . . has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always something more to discover.” One day Flea’s flâneur-ing takes him past Diva’s courtyard, and the two strike up a friendship. Diva, who is skittish and has never traveled, loves hearing of Flea’s adventures, particularly the one about the “tower so tall and so pointy that it could cut a cloud in half.” Eventually, Flea suggests that Diva go wandering with him, and after some gentle encouragement, Diva takes her first brave steps beyond the courtyard. In return, Diva takes Flea inside her apartment, introducing him to a friendly broom that won’t swat cats and the miraculous occurrence known as breakfast. Willems has written a story with winning characters and bursting with tender charm, which is further amplified by DiTerlizzi’s expressive, vintage-style illustrations. Humor and sincerity walk paw in paw through this simple chapter book, inspiring exploration, bravery, and making friends. Be warned: excessive smiling may occur while reading. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Willems and DiTerlizzi are a children’s book dream team. Stock up!— Julia Smith

School Library Journal
☆ Gr 2-4–Flea is a flâneur, an alley cat happy to take the world as it comes, seeking out new adventures every day. Diva is a pampered pooch who lives at the 11 avenue Le Play apartment building. Laid back Flea is out and about on one of his adventures when he spies Diva. While initially apprehensive about this cat who comes and goes, Diva grows curious about Flea. One day, with his encouragement, she cautiously ventures beyond the wrought iron fence that frames her world and follows the feline to see the tower that can “cut a cloud in half.” When she in turn invites him to explore her world inside the apartment, he is the one who must be trustful and brave. The occasional French word or chapter title paired with DiTerlizzi’s gorgeous illustrations work together to create an appropriately Parisian feel throughout. The charming endpapers, ornate chapter heading designs, and rich paper feel further extend the visual and tactile appeal of this work. With a message that facing fear and getting to know someone new will open one’s world, young readers will find much to love about Diva and Flea. VERDICT: An excellent addition to chapter book collections.–Laura Fields Eason, Parker Bennett Curry Elementary School, Bowling Green, KY

Publisher’s Weekly
Inspired by a real-life dog and cat Willems met during a stay in Paris, this tender friendship story traces the developing rapport between Diva, a small dog who takes seriously the job of guarding her home on 11 avenue le Play, and a roving black cat named Flea. Flea considers himself a flaneur, one who “has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always more to discover,” as Willems explains. He sets the story over several acts, complete with two intermissions (“le premier entracte” and “le deuxième entracte”), as Diva cautiously ventures out to see the wonders beyond her courtyard and Flea learns that a home can be a lovely thing (and that not all brooms are made for swatting at stray cats). Dabbed with greens and reds, DiTerlizzi’s elegant images of Parisian landmarks, handsome buildings, and the feisty interactions between Diva and Flea make the story feel instantly fit for translation to the big screen, and may have some adult readers checking airfares. Ages 6–8.

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