I wasn’t sure I would have time for even a quick review today, given I’m at a five-day family reunion in snowy upstate New York, but I read my mother this picture book right before I left on Friday, and I wanted to share it with you. I hadn’t heard about Toot and Puddle before she asked for it for Christmas, but once I saw it in the store, I ended up with a copy on my own shelf as well.
It’s a simple story about a year in the life of two friends – one who loves to travel the world and the other who prefers to stay home. Each page goes back and forth between them, following both Puddle’s homey endeavors (birthday parties, ice skating, swimming in Pocket Pond), and Toot’s trip from country to country (pastries in Italy, bull fighting in Spain, sunsets in France). The illustrations are beautiful – I found myself pausing on every page to study the cozy paintings – but what really drew me in was the idea of these two friends, separated by many miles, each enjoying vastly different lifestyles while remaining emotionally tied.
This is something I always relate to strongly at the holidays. We travel across the country to see our families, and spend hours on the phone with friends living in countries all over the world. We start planning out our trips for the rest of the year, and while some of them will be adventures based on our own desires to explore the wider world, many more will be tied to visiting far-flung companions. Some days, these two possibilities seem eminently doable; others, it feels overwhelming to try to keep in touch with all the people I miss.
I couldn’t help but connect to how beautifully each of these lives is represented, as well, because I am both a homebody and a wanderer. I love to visit new places, but I also love to come home again. While each of these characters represents the extremes (and I certainly have friends and family members who do as well), I live somewhere in between. I want to wake up in my own bed, but I also want to see the sunrise half way around the world. This story reminds me, on every page, how valid and wonderful both choices are – an idea I have to remember as I embrace this whirlwind northeastern vacation while longing for my own, homey routine…