I have been deeply negligent in never reviewing a book by illustrator and author Sergio Ruzzier before now, although I have long loved his work, especially Love You When You Whine by the wonderful Emily Jenkins. And, while I am remiss, I am also thrilled that Ruzzier's new book, the thoughtful, charming A Letter for Leo, is the first of his books I am reviewing here.
Leo is a mailman in a little old town. When I read a book illustrated by Ruzzier, I am transported to his world immediately. I think this is, in part, because his illustrations and palette remind me of favorite books from my childhood, specifically Arnold Lobel's The Ice Cream Cone Coot and other Rare Birds. Like Lobel, the worlds Ruzzier creates in his books feel a little bit strange, a little bit foreign and entirely intriguing.
Cool blues and greens sit quietly next to warm pinks, oranges and yellows in a landscape that can look like a dusty Italian village on one page and a moonscape on the next. Add to this Ruzzier's characters who look wise and silly, often at the same times, and you begin to understand why children are drawn to his books.
Leo loves delivering the mail of all shapes and sizes to his neighbors, even stopping for a game of bocce or a rest and a chat. However, Leo has a "pleasant life, except for one thing." He has never received a letter himself! There are so many directions A Letter for Leo could have taken at this point, but the path Ruzzier chooses is a sweet surprise. When Leo finds a lost little bird in the mailbox, he takes him home and gives him some "sun-dried crickets he always keeps in his satchel for emergencies," and decides to take him in, naming him Cheep.
The two become a little family and in springtime, the inevitable goodbyes happen as the little bird has grown big enough to rejoin his flock. I am sure you can guess the ending of A Letter for Leo, but that doesn't make the final pages any less rewarding.
More books written and illustrated by
Books illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier and written by kid's book greats like Eve Bunting, Lore Segal and a favorite of mine, Emily Jenkins!
(Coming January, 2015)
Source: Review Copy