Tuesday, October 23

Cherry and Olive

by Benjamin Lacombe
Walker Books 2007
first published as Cerise Griotte in France
by Seuil Jeunesse 2006

Cherry is a chubby little girl, daughter of the man who runs the animal shelter across the street from their apartment. She prefers reading to social interaction -- Jules Verne is namechecked and referred to in an illustration -- though she does have a crush on the cute boy at school that all the other girls are drawn to like moths.

Cherry's only happiness comes from working at the animal shelter, cleaning out cages, where she can be with all the lost, friendless animals. One day she falls in love with a wrinkled sharpei on whom she projects her own issues and names it Olive. Clearly no one loves this dog because of it's wrinkles, just as no one loves her because, uh, because she's chubby? Sure, there's one reference to it in a classroom scene, but her anti-social behavior isn't going to change things even if she were thin. No, there's something else going on here. But what?

Her dad says she can only keep the dog if no one claims it within a month. To avoid anyone claiming the dog she takes the dog out for walks whenever anyone comes into the shop. On her walks some of the mean girls at school make fun of the dog and Cherry stands up to them in a way she wouldn't do at school. She can do it for a dog but not for herself. Interesting.

A month comes and at the end of the walk the dog makes a mad dash for its owners. Surprise! The cute boy from school is the owner. Sitting on the curb with something in common you can see that all will be different from here on out, all her problems will evaporate.

Written (or translated, no translator was given) in a way that reads like a plot summary, the text is detached, more than a little cold. There may be more that didn't make it into translation as the original title refers to cherry, cerise, the color derived from cherries, and griotte which is a specific type of sour cherry. Cherry and sour cherry? That's an interesting idea, that one of the two main characters is considered sour. But we wouldn't want to suggest that Cherry is bitter, because that would call attention to her behavior and perhaps bring up questions that cannot be answered in the story.

I'm not sure where the Olive comes from but at least its constant in one respect: both cherries and olives are full of pits.

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