Animal Masquerade by Marianne Dubuc
This picture book takes one long-running gag and turns it into a very funny picture book. As the animals get ready for the masquerade, they have to dress up in costumes. Each animal dresses up as another animal and then that animal chooses yet another animal to dress up as. It forms a neat chain. Much of the humor is in the depictions of the costumes themselves and also in the occasional asides that break the rhythm of the book for even more of a punch-line effect. Fonts are also played with as the hummingbird disguised as an ostrich has its fonts hidden half underground just like its head. In another spot, the butterfly disguised as a bat has its font upside-down. All of the small touches add to the giggles in this picture book.
Dubuc’s art here is wonderfully whimsical and playful. The different animals in disguise are often absurd and completely strange. Just wait until you get to the animals that dress up like a three-headed monster, Red Riding Hood dressed as a chocolate cake, and the hen that is too dim to understand what is happening and doesn’t dress up as anything at all. The book is longer than most picture books in terms of number of pages, but that adds to the running gag theme here.
This picture book will do well read aloud very straight and seriously until the first big joke hits. Then make sure to leave plenty of time for the giggles to pass before moving on. It will work well for Halloween too, without anything scary about it. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Boy & Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
One day when out collecting pinecones in the forest, a boy meets a robot. The two of them play together and have a lot of fun. But then when rolling down a hill, the robot’s power button gets pressed and he turns off. The boy thinks the robot must be sick, so he takes the robot home and feeds him, reads him a book and puts him to bed. When the boy’s parents look in at him before going to bed, they press the switch on the robot. Now the robot notices the sleeping boy and thinks that he has malfunctioned. Bot takes the boy to his home, gives him oil, reads him an instruction manual and is just about to replace his battery, when the Inventor arrives. Soon all is straightened out and the two continue their grand friendship.
Dyckman’s story has a wonderful symmetry that works well. With the two friends and their misunderstandings of one another, the story mirrors itself in a delightful way. Both instances have their humor, as does the rest of the book. It is this wry sense of humor that carries the story forward and makes it a pleasure to read. The book is written in a straight-forward way, making it a great read aloud.
Yaccarino’s illustrations are very successful. They have a wonderful sort of fifties vibe to them, while at the same time being modern. The large robot is never frightening, thanks to his permanent smile and his care for the boy. Yaccarino plays with bright colors throughout the book, keeping his art simple and dynamic.
Robot fans will rejoice at this fresh new take on friendship and embracing differences. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.