I am so happy I picked up The Story of Diva and Flea. I may even love the book more than my kids do, and they really like it.
First of all, Mo Willems is currently my kid’s favorite author. Seriously. Elephant & Piggie are HUGE in our house right now.
But whereas Elephant & Piggie are more of an Easy Reader book for K-2 kids, this book is aimed at a slightly different crowd. Not too different – if you look on Amazon, they’re both listed for ages 6-8, but this is a book that is more likely to be read TO them than BY them.
And I certainly don’t mind.
(Actually I adore reading the E&P books with all my funny voices, too, but that’s beside the point.)
Diva and Flea has a great rhythm and an excellent structure. They meet, they both try something new, and they discover how wonderful it is to try new things – even if they seem scary at first.
There are three acts. In the first they meet, in the second Diva expands her borders, and in the third Flea expands his. They both face their fears head on – with the support of each other – and come out the better for it.
What a wonderful, wonderful lesson for children.
The writing itself is peppered with so many fun details. For example, Flea is a stray cat who considers himself a “Flâneur,” which is “someone (or somecat) who wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see.” The part I like best? “A great flâneur has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always more to discover.”
Little Diva has a tremendous fear of FEET because she is aware of just how “squishable” her small stature makes her. But she loves Fleas stories, like the ones about “The Underground Rooms on Wheels” and “The People Who Drink Cough-Fee All Day.” And those stories are part of what inspire her to explore they city.
Flea introduces Diva to the world outside of her courtyard and the “tower that could cut a cloud in half,” and helps Diva discover the bravery inside of her. Then Diva helps Flea conquer his fears, which also grants him the gift of the thing he doesn’t have: a home.
The illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi are beyond charming. I love the perspectives of the tiny dog Diva, I love the facial expressions of Flea, and I love the colors and the dazzling backdrops of the Parisian setting.
And that setting!
Ah, Paris, my Paris.
Many years ago, when I was writing my Travelblog, I said that upon leaving Paris I had left part of my heart there. And how very true that was.
Paris took me in. There is life in the very bones of the city, deep in the foundation, in the stones, and the hum of the Seine and the glow of the Tower against a gently falling night. It calls to me still.
But even if you don’t feel about Paris the way I do, it certainly never hurts to explore different cities and different cultures with your kids. The Story of Diva and Flea brings many things to your children, and, at the very least, is a wonderful read-aloud to snuggle with.