Bess and Bella


Written and Illustrated by Irene Haas

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006

It was a cold winter afternoon. Bess was outside, talking to her doll.

The plot in a nutshell: A bird drops in to a little girl’s tea party and all sorts of unusual things happen.

The nutshell version doesn’t really clue you in to the randomness of this book’s plot. The unusual things unfold in such a strange and unexpected way. Bess is having a tea party with no tea when a bird (Bella) falls out of the sky with her suitcases. From one, she pulls out a pot of tea and a bowl of biscuits. Then a fire engine full of dogs shows up and puts out a fire by changing the flames to flowers, which they give to Bess. Bella produces musical instruments from another suitcase and they all start playing. Then a mother mouse shows up, having lost her child. The fire dogs find the baby and Bella provides food for the whole mouse family. Bess takes Bella home to stay with her for the winter and, as Bella flies away in the spring, Bess sees a new friend coming to her house.

This bird does not travel light.

This bird does not travel light.

Author/illustrator Irene Haas fills this unusual story with beautiful watercolor pictures, in soft muted colors. I love the pictures, but just couldn’t get over the haphazardness of the story’s plot. I’m generally a fan of stories that take bizarre and unexpected turns, but in this book, everything happens so quickly, with such abrupt shifts in tone and mood, that I just ended up feeling confused. I wanted to enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed the pictures, so I wound up disappointed when it fell short.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that new friends always bring new experiences into our lives.


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