Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee
Although Bernard Waber passed away in 2013 (at 91!), he’s left quite the literary legacy – most especially his beloved, readily recognized Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile! series with almost a dozen titles. This, his latest, pubbed posthumously, invoking his signature gentle, emotive style, starring a young girl and her father who wander through a neighborhood park. Fall is here, requiring a cap and jacket for the father, a loose red sweater for the daughter. Trees are aflame all around, the pond calm and reflective, joggers dash by, dogs walk their owners, a cat warms a welcoming lap, friends enjoy an open book under falling leaves.
“Ask me what I like,” the girl opens the conversation. “What do you like?” the father responds instantly. “I like dogs. I like cats. I like turtles,” the daughter simply states. Back and forth, the pair wander and explore, as they talk about what they see: the everyday details made special when shared with someone attentive, someone responsive, someone beloved.
From geese to bugs to flowers, from riding horses to eating ice cream to the joys of “splishing, sploshing, splooshing in the rain” – “rain words” that the girl proudly makes up – the sweet ventures continue, punctuated by questions and answers, then more questions and answers. Created with the little girl’s words in black, her father’s in blue, the welcoming layout is crisp and simple, the delightful dialogue easy to follow.
As tender as Waber’s words are, even more invitingly stupendous are Suzy Lee’s illustrations. Perhaps best known for her (near-)wordless works-of-art titles – Shadow, Mirror, Wave – Lee enhances Waber’s text with whimsy, charm, and utter wonder. From the front endpaper as father and daughter don their outdoor gear and ready themselves for the fall day, to the final back end filled with glowing lightning bugs (not fireflies!), Lee populates every spread with marvelous discovery: the little girl’s virtuoso launch off the front steps as her father is still tying his shoe, a close-up of the duo’s faces as they hover over butterflies, the unexpected bunny offering balloons from the ice cream truck’s open window, the prone bodies enjoying an autumn afternoon warm enough to throw off their shoes, and so much more.
Go ahead and ‘ask me’: Do my bookshelves need this book?
Yes, most emphatically indeed. It will, of course, be pulled into eager hands more often than not … because every red, orange, golden page is the perfect reminder of the boundless pleasures of nature and the infinite celebration of parent/child love.