David Soman and Jacky Davis's Ladybug Girl
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Entertaining oneself isn't easy
The Superman-like pose that protagonist Lulu strikes on the cover of Ladybug Girl isn't just happenstance. With her ladybug wings, her antennae, her red boots and tutu, you just know this girl is capable of doing something quite heroic. And here's what it is...
Some kids are born with the knack. Most have to develop it. Some inevitably lose it. Yet what skill could be more essential to growing up - and, in particular, growing up happy?
The book opens with Lulu's day just starting. Already dressed as a ladybug, she's eager to get on with the fun. Will it be with her older brother? Her mom? Her dad?
Uh, no. They're all busy today. As Mama says, "You'll have to figure out your own fun time, okay?"
Responds Lulu, "How am I ever going to do that?"
What ensues is the inspiring tale of Lulu's managing to answer that question for herself. Utilizing her surroundings and her imagination - and NO ready-made forms of entertainment - she manages to keep herself occupied.
For a four year old, that is heroism.
After learning she's on her own today, Lulu manages to make her way out to the backyar (which looks the size of a city park, but I can get over that), where she moons over her brother playing ball with his friends.
She comes across a line of ants. Their path takes them over a rock.
"Is that rock in your way, ants? It's much too big for you to move, isn't it?" she says.
"I can help you! I'm Ladybug Girl!"
She moves the rock, "saving" the ants. This is the stuff of heroism - given a healthy imagination. Lulu - with her sidekick bassett hound, Bingo - resolves to seek out more adventure.
A puddle may hide a shark. "Ladybug Girl jumps in anyway!" A stone wall needs help growing taller. A downed tree requires heroic traversing. Blown leaves need chasing. And you know what?...
Lulu's brother and his squabbling friends look to be having quite a good deal less fun that Lulu. And Ladybug Girl, with her super able-to-play-alone vision, can see that.
In this, their first book, husband-wife team Soman and Davis capture a proud and important moment in growing up and manage to give it the weight it deserves. We may not think of our children as heroic, but learning to play alone is important and doesn't come easily, so heroic it is.
Kids are likely to take inspiration from Ladybug Girl. And parents will surely treasure having a true superhero to point to when kids whine, "I don't know what to do."
Reviewer's note: My downloadable ebook, How Boberto Learned to Like Being by Himself Sometimes, tackles this same subject and is available from this site.
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