Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake (9781927271889)
Giraffe is bored and he’s just missing one thing: a best friend. So when he sees Pelican, who is also bored, offering a mail service, he decides to write a letter. He asks Pelican to deliver it to the first animal he sees past the horizon. Pelican sees that the horizon looks very close, so he agrees. Pelican meets a seal who also delivers mail and sends the letter on to the next animal, which happens to be a Penguin. Giraffe and Penguin become pen pals and steadily become good friends. Soon Giraffe is trying to figure out what Penguin looks like from afar, but doesn’t get it quite right.
First published in Japan, this book is a very friendly chapter book with plenty of illustrations to break the text into manageable chunks. There is a warm playfulness throughout the book, inviting readers to see the humor in boredom and the solution of taking some sort of action to break through the tedium. The characters are well drawn and interesting, each with a unique personality that plays through naturally in the book.
The illustrations by Takabatake are done in fine lined black ink. They have a cartoon feel that embraces the light tone of the book. The illustrations work well with the text, creating action on the page that is very appealing.
A light and warm look at boredom and friendship that is a great read aloud. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat (InfoSoup)
Caldecott Medalist Santat shows the beauty of a bored mind in his new picture book. On a long car ride to his grandmother’s house, a boy gazes out his window and his brain gets bored. Then time seems to stretch and slow down. The world shifts with the book turning entirely upside down! Suddenly the car is back in time. Next to a steam train with bandits and aboard a pirate ship. They make it to medieval times and then back to the building of the pyramids. Finally, they are all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs.Time can start to move again, too quickly and they find themselves in the future. Then suddenly, they are at Grandma’s house where the boy is all too willing to head back home.
Santat takes the classic dull car ride that every child has experienced and shows how imagination can change the entire trip, aided by a healthy dose of boredom. Told primarily in images, this story does have commentary by the boy and his parents as well as a framing narrative that speaks to the power of boredom. The flip of the book is cleverly done where you have to turn the pages backwards guided by the helpful arrows to remind you. It feels different and wild, adding to the experience.
It is the illustrations here that make the book so much fun. There are small touches like Beekle toys in the car that tie this to Santat’s other works. Watch the parents’ clothing change with each new time period as well as their over-the-top reactions to what they are seeing. The images change from comic-like frames to large double-page spreads. The space is used very intelligently, allowing for new reveals with page turns and creating tension as they move through time.
A great new picture book from a master author/illustrator, this picture book will have you looking forward to your next car ride. May it be filled with boredom. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske (InfoSoup)
Hanging off of the bottom of a dock is not the most exciting life. Barnacle has times of day when he is cold and wet and other times when he is dry and hot. The tide comes in and out, the waves roll in, the sun goes up and goes down. Barnacle is particularly jealous of the merry life of a polka-dotted little fish nearby. He knows that the fish has to have a lot more fun than Barnacle does. He must go diving with dolphins and frolic with other fish. Just as Barnacle is completing his fantasies about how much better the little fish’s life is than his own, an eel comes along. Gulp!
Put this down as another rather dark picture book that I adore. I must admit to having a type and this one is particularly pleasing with Barnacle being entirely jealous of what another fish has that he does not. It’s an emotion that children will relate to readily. The text is very brief and fast-moving. Barnacle’s voice is a pleasure to read aloud, from his slow tones of boredom through to the joys of being a fish and all the way to the end when he realizes what he actually has going for him.
The illustrations are very appealing and have the feel of a cartoon. Done in flat colors, they play up the facial expressions of Barnacle and the other fish to good effect. The looks of boredom are particularly clear and take it so far that it’s humorous. The page turns are nicely done as well, adding to the theater of the book.
Perfect for the boredom of summer days, this seaside book will surely refresh or at any rate give everyone a good jump at the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
The Dullards are a very boring family and that’s just the way that Mr. and Mrs. Dullard want it to be. But lately their three children, Blanda, Borely and Little Dud, have been giving then bad shocks. The children want to read books, play outside, and have fun. The parents are so horrified that they move to a duller neighborhood. Once there though, they need to make sure their home is boring enough by getting rid of the colorful wallpaper and then watching the paint dry. Even that won’t stop their children though, so they move back to their original home, just in time for the circus to come to town. Luckily for their children, the Dullards sleep very soundly.
Pennypacker offers an inventive riff on The Stupids, one that embraces the dull side of life. She perfectly captures the humor of a family wanting to just be bored all of the time, taking it to such a level that the humor is laugh-out-loud funny. From their reaction to chunky applesauce to asking to have the vanilla flavor removed from their ice cream, the book is a joy to share aloud. Beautifully, the humor is delivered in the ideal deadpan manner, matter-of-fact and with a straight face (of course). The Dullards wouldn’t have it any other way.
Salmieri captures the gray dullness of the Dullard’s lives very nicely, using images like the children watching an unplugged TV and seated on the bare floor. He contrasts that with the children who may be dressed in the same dull colors but are independent thinkers who add color in many other ways. The illustrations add so much to the book, creating those moments where the children are doing their own thing much to their parents dismay.
Funny and vibrant despite its dull subject, this picture book is sure to get even the most bored children giggling. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
The dreaded boredom has set in in this very funny picture book. A little girl is so bored she is flat on her back moaning when she notices a potato. When she tosses the potato away, not knowing what to do with it, the potato says that it too is bored. The potato goes on to tell the little girl that kids are boring. She insists that no, kids are fun and the potato challenges her to prove it. She shows the potato all the physical things she can do, then demonstrates using her imagination, but through it all the potato stays unimpressed. There is a great twist at the end of the book that you will have to read for yourself. A funny read that will have even the most bored child enjoying themselves.
Done entirely in dialogue, this is a fast-moving picture book. It begs to be read aloud with a grungy, dusty potato voice. The ever-bored potato is a great foil to the little girl who despite herself loses herself in her imagination and actions. It’s a lesson that kids are anything but boring, even when they themselves are bored.
The illustrations have a great rough feel to them. Done digitally, there is a feel of the organic roughness of a block print. I particularly enjoy seeing a little girl not in pink or done up cutely. This little girl is a real one, one that throws herself into things and that includes being willing to argue with a potato.
This is one book that is anything but boring. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile
Frankie and Sal have done it all: played every sport, painted pictures, baked cookies, played board games, and read every comic book. So they decide to do something they have never done before! Nothing! They try again and again to do nothing at all, but it doesn’t work. When they pretend to be statues, Sal has to swat away the pigeons. When they think of themselves as trees, Sal imagines that Frankie’s dog pees on him. When they are tall buildings, Sal is scaled by King Kong. In the end, they decide that they have to start doing something after all because it is impossible to do nothing.
The common problem of boredom is paired here with a sense of humor. The two boys imagine themselves as different things, but Sal always has his glasses even as a tree or building. The King Kong sequence is especially funny as sharp-eyed readers will spot the hand of Kong even as Sal reassures Frankie that he is doing great. The relationship between the two boys is also very well done. The boys are different as can be but their friendship is never in jeopardy in the book. It is a great and subtly delivered message behind the action.
A rousing read aloud for any bored child, this book will refresh long summer days filled with free time. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Lori Calabrese Writes.