The Story of Diva and Flea

by Mo Willems
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

I was heartbroken to hear that Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books will soon be coming to an end, but was hopeful that we could expect more and similar genius from him ahead. However, if what he puts out is like Diva and Flea, lovers of his signature humor will be sorely disappointed. I’m not even totally sure what age this book is for – it’s set up sort of like Mercy Watson, and lord knows the world needs more of those transitional books: it’s more complex than an easy reader, but not as daunting as a chapter book. The only problems are that Willems uses some long and complex words, including some French words like flaneur that are not in everyday use in English (like croissant, for example), and that nothing happens. As for the first problem, my library has chosen to put it in with the J Fiction, books I think of for 3rd-5th graders, but the story is too simple for that. As for the second problem, reading the author’s note at the end helped me understand part of why it seemed out of place for Willems: it’s a true story of a pet dog named Diva and a street cat named Flea who are friends and live in Paris. But it’s just really not a very exciting story – not much happens except they become friends. And Diva learns to get over her fears of the city and of being stepped on, and Flea learns to be petted and fed by humans, so maybe kids who are very timid would like it? Or kids who have spent time in Paris? I really don’t know.

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