Take Off and Fly with Fletcher & Zenobia and Rita

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Fletcher and Zenobia
Victoria Chess and Edward Gorey
The New York Review Children’s Collection
Wonderfully wry but then it is Gory, although he didn’t illustrate this one; that was Victoria Chess and a delightfully whimsical job she’s done of it too. It tells of a burgeoning friendship between two unlikely characters, Fletcher a tubby cat who, for reasons known best to himself, resides in a tall tree, and Zenobia, a doll who hatches from a large papier-mâché egg. Oh, I should have mentioned the trunk – that’s also up in the tree and contains an assortment of things including a hat collection and, once Fletcher discovers it, that egg.
Having been released from her eggy prison, Zenobia is eager to learn about her new surroundings but is even more eager to work out a way to descend.
In the meantime, the two agree to have a party, a party that includes a multi-layered lemon cake, peach ice-cream and fruit punch, a fair number of balloons and those hats – of course, the hats …

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and dancing. The latter is interrupted by a new arrival, one that appears to be an ace dancer with an enormous capacity for ice-cream and cake. And it’s this, or more precisely, the resulting increase in the moth’s size that enables Fletcher and Zenobia to finally bid farewell to the tree and take off into the great wide world of beyond …

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So good to see this one available again: a lovely book to share but equally, a good one to offer newly independent readers.

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Rita Rides Again
Rita on the River
Hilda Offen
Troika Books
I remember Rita the Rescuer, youngest member of the Potter family, from my early teaching days when this smart young miss delighted many of my ‘just becoming independent’ readers. Now she’s back with some new adventures to entertain a new generation of children. In the first story, the Potter children accompany Grandad to the castle where he’s a guide and it’s not long before Rita is required to transform herself into rescuing mode and save a valuable vase from destruction. That’s not the only thing she deals with though; there’s a ghost to see off, not to mention a whole flock of furious peacocks and a monster in the lake.

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But there’s still more excitement and rescuing of the Rita kind too, in this book and you can be assured that all the time the young heroine is making good use of her thinking skills.
The same is true in the second story. Herein her superhero tactics are called into play almost immediately on a picnic expedition when she’s left sitting on the riverbank while Grandpa and the older children take to the water in boats. It’s not her family members who need rescuing straightaway however, but a puppy. Before long though Grandpa is up the river without a paddle or rather, up the pole without the punt …

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and there’s only one person fast enough to pull off that particular rescue. But Rita’s work is far from done: people seem to end up in all manner of life-threatening situations on the river, so it’s just as well, she took her special outfit along on this expedition. There’s an Eddie and Jim crocodile encounter and a dramatic waterfall snatch to perform before the whole family finally sits down to share that picnic. And the best thing is – and it’s something readers revel in – that none of the rescued knows the identity of the Rescuer.

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