Recurring characters are a great device for young kids. They create an instant bond with a new book, becoming more like familiar friends than characters. Some of my best literary memories are with series characters: Frances, Frog and Toad, Pippi Longstocking, Nancy Drew, Henry Huggins.
Kids who otherwise won't tolerate anything new are more open to a different plot peopled by someone they already know. Sprout's right at this developmental stage -- over Christmas break he ate the exact same breakfast every single day, and when I suggested something different, he looked at me like I was nuts. He'd happily listen to the same book four times every night, but Mama needs to switch it up for sanity's sake. Enter series characters: I can easily sell a different Elephant and Piggie title in place of the one that's wearing a bit thin. Whew!
Angela Johnson's Lottie Paris Lives Here is a book all about one of the most endearingly energetic girls in kidlit today. She's smart and spunky, with an attitude and an imagination to match. At times that attitude gets her into trouble (Lottie ends up in the quiet chair on more than one occasion), which makes her all the more lovable. This is a girl who takes life and shakes it awake -- Sprout and I love the spread where Lottie's on the playground, because all that vivacious energy has her near about bursting off the page. Oh, and when Lottie wears a hat? Yep, that's a hat like no other, complete with feathers, flowers and frogs. Woot!
Scott M. Fischer illustrates this humdinger of a picture book. We loved Fischer's Jump!, which has become one of our favorite get-the-wiggles-out reads (here's my review). Fischer brings a similar liveliness to Lottie, giving her eyes that sparkle and snap, a head of luscious curls, and a smile that's about 1000 watts. No boring color palettes for Lottie's world, either -- it's all bright pastels, even down to Lottie's purple-furred puppy. Fischer knows how to draw kids, too, in all kinds of situations. Lottie's equally charming when she's yelling for another cookie, or when she's snuggled up to Papa Pete at the end of a long day's adventures.
I don't know if Angela Johnson is planning to make Lottie Paris a recurring character, but it's my opinion that she should. Lottie is the sort of girl kids are going to bond with instantly and stick with over the course of many books. More, please!
Lottie Paris Lives Here by Angela Johnson, published by Simon and Schuster
Sample: "Can you find Lottie in the park? / She's the one going this way / and that way / and under the trees, / around the fountain, / and down the slide. / Lottie Paris plays here."