Friday, July 25, 2014

Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley

Kel Gilligan is the hero of my toddler self. He bravely takes on challenges that I would never have considered at his age. No way.

Broccoli. Yes, all of it and, yes, without complaining. In the end, he’s a bit weaker and greener, but unscathed. Me? Yeah, forget it. Even today.

There’s the potty. Even though it took longer than expected, and with no coloring book to help, he emerged victorious. Ta-Daaa! Me? Ask my mom about my potty experience (I was a two-year-old) the time we toured a house for sale. No victory for me, but thankfully it wasn’t a deal-breaker; we ultimately moved into the house.

Then there’s getting dressed. Kel Gilligan does it by himself. No net, no safety precautions, and no helmet (at least until he’s dressed). Spectators are amazed. Me? Shirt backwards. Shoes on the wrong feet. Fly unzipped.

Kel Gilligan allows Mom to talk on the phone uninterrupted. He takes on bath time with a brave face and comes out scrubbed and squeaky clean. He even takes on bedtime. The darkness, the monsters, no problem, right? Right?

In the end Kel learns an important lesson, despite his heroics. Some stunts are better left to the professionals. (But even professionals appreciate a little help.)

Michael Buckley captures the impossible tasks of childhood through the bravery of one unique, danger-loving adventurer, and Dan Santat’s illustrations support the daredevil vibe wonderfully. Kel dresses in red, white, and blue reminiscent of Evel Knievel. Some stunts are recorded on videotape, complete with battery levels and elapsed time in the corners. (Keep an eye on the time for Kel’s potty stunt.) Even Kel’s portrait on the wall features a scowl, and untamed lock of hair, and a t-shirt that reads “I ♥ DANGER.”

Kids will quickly understand how Kel takes on challenges many of them once faced themselves. With a little encouragement, and a little exaggeration, readers’ own stories might even rival Kel’s adventures.

And bonus points for reading the story in Don LaFontaine’s voice. Just because.

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