Sunday, September 29, 2013

That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

If you are one of those people who wait patiently for the next Mo Willems book release, wondering if it will be a welcome addition to children's libraries, stop it. Okay, keep up the waiting patiently part, but the whole wondering-if-it-will-be-good part? Stop that. His track record is pretty good, so until he releases a dud or two, just trust the man. He knows how to create books kids will love.

That Is Not a Good Idea! certainly continues the streak, and it's nice to be introduced to new characters (not that I wouldn't love more Pigeon or Elephant and Piggie).

Meet the players:

1. A slippery-smooth and hungry fox who politely uses phrases like "Excuse me..." and "Would you care to...?" He offers daisies to innocent victims pedestrians. He smirks a lot. He wears a suit, vest, and top hat. A top hat, people.

2. A kind and trusting plump goose who strolls innocently through the city, wide-eyed, carrying her basket. She wears a kerchief on her head. Kerchiefs are the distinct opposite of top hats. You've been warned.

3. A cautious bunch of baby geese who play the role of peanut gallery, sort of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 meets silent films in a children's book. Their main role is to point out the obvious. "That is NOT a good idea!"

When the fox invites the goose to go on a stroll, an invitation accepted by the goose, the baby geese point out how that's not a good idea. When he suggests the walk continue into a deep, dark woods - a suggestion once again accepted by the goose - they see how a bad idea is getting worse. "That is REALLY NOT a good idea!" they inform readers. What follows involves a kitchen, a pot of boiling water, and a close look at the soup in the pot, all of which is met by an emphatic, "That is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY NOT a good idea!"

The ending is exactly what you'd expect. Except it's not. And I'm not telling. But it's awesome.

That Is Not a Good Idea! very much imitates a silent film. There are full-page pictures of the fox and goose followed by solid black pages with white text showing the characters' conversation. Interspersed throughout are the baby geese sharing their opinion, as if the reader turns from the screen to see what others in the theater are thinking. It's a perfect opportunity for readers - or for the grown-ups reading with youngsters - to stop and wonder together with the baby geese. Is that a good idea? Why? Why not?

And of course, there's that ending that will have you wondering even more.

Monday, September 2, 2013

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a book that climbs off the page, sneaks up your arms, slides into your head, and then sits on your brain for a good, long time. After finishing the book I went online in search of mindless distraction and ended up searching for tweets and reviews about the book. It. Sticks. With. You.

Isn’t that what a great book does? It makes you think? (*See below.)

But all that thinking makes for reeeeeally long reviews. I can’t begin to explain how this book made me . . .

- angry yet joyful
- frustrated yet hopeful
- heartbroken yet joyous
- defeated yet victorious

One for the Murphys is certainly powerful, but for me it is all too personal to write more. It would take another book. So here’s the deal. Take my word for it. Get to know Carly and Mrs. Murphy, two wonderful characters, and let their strong spirits enter into your brain and sit a while.

* I also believe there are great books that don’t make you think, but there’s a time and a place for both.