Review by Annie Cronin Romano
Some children love the magic of words and books. Others are fascinated by different interests, such as music, dance, animals, or sports. In LEO + LEA, Wesolowska tells the story of a young child, Leo, who is intrigued by numbers. When the chaos and noise of the schoolyard overwhelm him, Leo seeks out a quieter spot to focus on his love of numbers. He is soon joined by his new classmate, Lea, and discovers that he is not alone in his unique interest, for Lea adores patterns and includes them in her artwork. Together they share their intersecting fascination with numbers and patterns with their teacher and classmates and embrace their new friendship.
Monica Wesolowska’s debut picture book LEO +LEA (Scholastic Press, 2022) employs sparse, lyrical text, and cleverly uses the Fibonacci sequence as the numbers in the story as she depicts Leo’s blooming interest in math. (And no, I didn’t pick up on that fact on my own—thank goodness for the author’s note!) The illustrations by Kenard Pak are equally evocative and expressive, using subtly increasing intensity in the colors as the story progresses (also inspired by Fibonacci’s sequence as pointed out in the artist’s note). The author and illustrator meld the interaction of text and art seamlessly, allowing each to contribute uniquely to the unfolding of the story’s events. The subtle themes of individuality, friendship, and celebrating all interests comes through clearly yet gently. A delight to read aloud, LEO + LEA is a story that you’ll want to count among your picture book collection. This treasure is also an excellent social-emotional selection for the classroom. (Fiction picture book for ages 4-8)
Monica Wesolowska’s debut picture book (she has written for adults) is a strong example of sparse, balanced, and well-paced writing that takes a unique approach to conveying the importance of recognizing and embracing the interests of all.
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