One of the fun things about writing these blog entries is finding connections between new releases that seem otherwise unrelated. For example, the four titles discussed here all offer wild rumpuses and chaos. And this equals of course surefire storytime success for those who like to inject a little wildness into their programs. So let’s go to where the wild things are and celebrate these vibrant, fast-moving delights.
The Great Indoors, illustrated by Ruth Chan, written by Julie Falatko, published by Disney/Hyperion, ISBN: 978-1368000833.
The members of a human family heading out on a camping trip have no idea that their temporarily vacant home will attract a bunch of thrill-seeking forest creatures looking for adventures in the–ta da (and I’m loving the wordplay here)–Great Indoors. Falatko grabs the reader with the very first line: “The bears always arrived first.” Ooh, consider me intrigued. And then she fills her story with comical details (a teenage bear calling dibs on the bathroom with her blow-dryer in hand) that build with giggle-inducing intensity. More animals arrive: beavers set up camp in the kitchen, the deer rock things up dancing to their karaoke machine, and so on. Of course they start damaging the house and getting on each other’s nerves. Illustrator Ruth Chan’s delightful drawings serve up wildly expressive cartoon characters. I love the wired skunk who has drank too much coffee. She fills each spread with perfectly rendered slapstick. It’s a manic triumph of picture book hilarity.
Harold & Hog Pretend for Real! (An Elephant & Piggie, oops I mean a Harold & Hog, Like Reading book), illustrated and written by Dan Santat (with contributions from Mo Willems), published by Disney/Hyperion, ISBN: 978-1368027168, to be released: May 7, 2019.
Many young readers love Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie series, following the easy reader-style, speech bubble-packed adventures of a carefree pig and her more careful elephant pal Gerald. Caldecott winner Dan Santat takes the Elephant & Piggie formula and spins it on its head with this witty, meta new installment of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series. Harold & Hog adore the beloved characters and decide to emulate their heroes by pretending to be them. The only problem is Harold the elephant is the carefree one, and Hog, well, Hog is a bundle of neurotic nerves. It’s an absolute joy watching Santat take this comical conceit and running with it, especially when Harold dances and flies across the page while trying to teach Hog how to stop being so uptight. And yet under all the goofiness emerges a message about individuality and friendship that remains true to the very best of Willems’ stories.
The Little Guys, illustrated and written by Vera Brosgol, published by Roaring Brook, ISBN: 978-1626724426.
The great Vera Brosgol received a well-deserved 2017 Caldecott honor for Leave Me Alone! (wow, who were those smart people on that committee?), an ingenious mix of old-fashioned folklore and outlandish sci fi. The Little Guys is her first picture book as illustrator and writer since that honor, and it’s an idiosyncratic cautionary tale that mixes a lesson with the laughs. Wearing acorns on their heads, these multi-colored little guys with their stick legs seem endearing and adorable at first. We’re on their side, applauding the fact that they show no fear in the big, dark forest, and that they exude resourcefulness as they search for a piece of cake. But then Brosgol pulls the rug out from under the reader. The little guys start getting, well, downright jerky: knocking chipmunks and foxes out of their homes and joining forces to steal a berry from a bird’s beak. Brosgol’s art is remarkably fluid here (this would make an excellent animated film). I love the facial expressions on the various animals (I seriously think that Brosgol ranks with the very best in terms of giving each character she draws vivid features and characteristics). Thankfully the Little Guys learn their lesson by the end. Phew!
Vroom!, illustrated and written by Barbara McClintock, published by Farrar Straus Giroux, ISBN: 978-1626722170, to be released: July 2, 2019.
I have always loved the work of Barbara McClintock, and associate her with more history-minded picture books (such as last year’s glorious Nothing Stopped Sophie, written by Cheryl Bardoe). The fact that I love her new book, Vroom!, is no surprise. But I am genuinely surprised by its content and story, although it does celebrate girl power like many of her books. This title has a more contemporary feel than her previous works. Vroom! stars a red-haired young girl named Annie who loves hopping into a race car and soaring out her second floor bedroom window (love that moment of subversive surrealism) and out into the great wide open. The book’s rectangular dimensions serve the story well as she glides through the prairie, over the mountain, into the desert, city, and onto a race car track. Always zooming forward to the next page. McClintock offers a variety of views of the girl in action: over her shoulder, in front of the car, off to the side, up above. The book emerges as another prime example of picture book as cinema. I love the wild moment when she returns home, zipping through the livingroom, whipping by her family and her pets all lifted off the ground by her triumphant entrance. This book would be the perfect end to a storytime celebrating movement and the joy of creating wild rumpuses.