August 17, 2017

Federica

Written and illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-968-3
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
August 2017

The cover of Federica may suggest a little girl herding sheep and, though she's not, I think it would be far easier than herding her family to keep the house tidy.  Because everyone is so busy–there's mum and dad and baby in addition to Federica–"her house was a buggy, buzzy mess." Yech!
From Federica by Scot Ritchie
No wonder Federica enjoys the peace and solitude of the park, a space with an assortment of free-roaming goats, sheep, raccoons and more. Watching the animals, she gets her big idea.

For the first part of her plan, she brings the sheep and goats home.  She's a very good girl, though, and asks her dad's permission for her "friends" to come in.  He's too busy to notice and answers with an "Uh-huh." Similarly, she brings in some spiders and dragonflies, a toad and an owl, and some raccoons, always asking her inattentive parents first.
From Federica by Scot Ritchie
The second part of her plan is getting her family out of the house for a picnic at the park.  This is easy-peasy.  As soon as the door closes behind them, Federica's new friends get to work.  They eat bugs and mice and scraps off the floor and plates and even wash the dishes and the kitchen counters.  Mum and Dad may be shocked by the animals in the house but "The flies were gone, the carpet was clean.  The grass was cut, and the kitchen spotless."  But could the family keep up the cleaning once Federica's friends returned to their homes?

In most households, it's the parents and guardians hounding children to keep their rooms and other areas tidy, but Scot Ritchie turns that tale around by Federica being the impetus for getting and keeping the house clean.  I suspect that there are numerous households like Federica's where the parents are so focused on their own activities that they fail to notice what their children who, getting what they want, may not get what they need. In Federica's case, she craves cleanliness.  And though she finds an unconventional way to get that what she needs, she does instill that need for tidiness in her family that will keep them all healthy and happy in the future.

Scot Ritchie's take on getting a family to come together to clean at the behest of one of the children is charming.  Federica is never heavy-handed or angry, though that would be perfectly warranted.  The text is cherry and the illustrations are the same, light and airy and never burdensome as cleaning can be.  Cleaning has never been so animated and entertaining.
From Federica by Scot Ritchie

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