Review: One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo; pictures by David Small

“Elliot was a very proper young man.”  So begins Toni Buzzeo’s new book One Cool Friend.  Elliot and his father go to the Family Fun Day at the aquarium and while his father sits on a bench to read his National Geographic, Elliot skips the masses of children at the other displays and discovers the penguins. “…their tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture” makes an immediate and delightful impression on the boy. When he asks his father if he can have one, his father agrees and hands him a $20 bill. What happens next is a perfectly silly story that kids will simply love – and the surprise ending delivered by David Small’s expertly penned illustrations will have them begging to hear it (read it) again.

This is a delightful story that I think should be a first choice purchase. This is one of those rare books in which the illustrations provide a story of their own. Think Officer Buckle and Gloria and you’ll see what I mean. It is as if Toni and David are winking and grinning at the reader throughout the tale and we are happily in on the joke. Elliot is instantly likeable and his father jovially oblivious. I love the fact that Toni, a school librarian herself, included a visit to the library so that Elliot can do some research on his “cool friend.” The look on the librarian’s face as Elliot asks for help is priceless and her assistance in accessing both print and online resources is a nice touch.

This is not just for elementary schools, folks. There are so many extension activities you could do with this title in both middle and high school writing or art classes. The idea of the illustrations telling a different dimension of the story would make an interesting introduction to a unit on graphic novels or video production.  The subtle but important touches that Small adds to his drawings could lead to a discussion of book cover design or inference or visual storytelling. The only limits are the creativity of the educator!

I highly recommend One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo illustrated by David Small. It will make a wonderful addition to any library!


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