Flora and the Flamingo shows the development of a beautiful friendship between two dancers – one a leggy flamingo, the other an awkward, tubby girl called Flora. It is also winner of a 2014 Caldecott Honor.
Without a word being spoken (or indeed written, as there is not one word to be spied) the pair shift from competitive choreographers to the most perfectly synchronised of partners. At first Flora is petulant and peeved – who is this balletic bird anyway? – but it isn’t long before her flamingo mimicking manoeuvres achieve something of a cinematic celebration of the “practice makes perfect” maxim.
Flora is at once a timeless classic, a comic triumph and a didactic revelation… Love it for its beauty, its lesson or its wry sense of humour!
Written and illustrated by Molly Idle (who boasts ‘DreamWorks animator’ in her resume) Flora’s carefully conducted journey is a perfect showcase of Idle’s illustrative mastery. Her animator credentials are evident… Indeed, there is an almost cinematic ‘flip book’ quality to many of the pages. Perhaps it is also this ‘training’ that bestows a unique quality to Idle’s images wherefore a simple and elegant line leaps to life with only the sparest addition of colour?
A fan of the pencil, Idle’s lines are the visual equivalent of poetry, summing up the full character of her story with a carefully considered minimum of illustrative fuss. White space has been generously employed, focusing the reader on the protagonists’s journey and delivering a ‘timeless classic’ quality to the images – which, with their leafy framing would look just as beautiful sitting upon a wall as upon the pages of this book – yet there is still a wealth of character-enriching expression etched into every detail for children to explore, from petulant pirouettes to perfected pointes.
I have to admit, when I first saw this book, I pondered whether it may be a reissue – with its muted shell-pink colouring, swim-capped ballerina, and oval portraiture cover image, it looks like something that might have been lifted straight from your great-grandmother’s bookshelf. Such is the timeless quality of the tale. And, without words to date it, this book is bound to remain a classic for many a generation.