Gordon and Tapir by Sebastian Meschenmoser (InfoSoup)
Gordon is a very tidy penguin who lives with a very untidy tapir. The two of them simply can’t get along together. Tapir takes all of the toilet paper to make a hammock in his room and a hat to go with it. He doesn’t do the dishes and the living room has started to look like a jungle. Tapir has complaints about Gordon too. Gordon is too orderly and won’t let Tapir join his club of penguins. Finally Gordon has had enough, particularly when Tapir’s friend moves in and lives in the bathroom. So Gordon moves out. Tapir misses him dreadfully, but Gordon soon reaches out and the two discover that sometimes friendships work best when you don’t share the same space.
Shortlisted for the German Children’s Book of the Year, this picture book is entirely delightful. A large part of that comes from the skillful mix of anthropomorphic animals but also keeping them very realistic as well. These are real-feeling animals who just happen to have couches, dishes and bathrooms. The art is beautifully and detailed, allowing the text to fade into the background for much of the book. My favorite pages are actually free of text as the two of them struggle to make living together work.
The use of the odd-couple dynamics in the book doesn’t feel stale at all and is further freshened by the unique animals chosen as the protagonists. Young readers will want to discover more about Tapirs even if they are slovenly. The book has a lovely story arc that gives a satisfying ending to the book, one that young readers will appreciate as they navigate their own friendships whether they are the tidy or messy one.
A clever look at friendships that gives new life to an old trope. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan
Maya doesn’t eat with very good manners at all. She likes to eat with her hands, has terrible posture, and doesn’t use a napkin. Her parents are trying to get her to make less of a mess and her father asks what she would do if she was eating with the queen. Just then, a knock comes on the door and a royal messenger is there to invite Maya to dine with the queen that night. Maya arrives via plane to the castle where the queen greets her and she is taken to the dining hall. There are many people in fancy clothes there and the food is fancy too. Maya requests (very politely) pasta with ketchup, but then can’t figure out what fork to use. The gentleman next to her, brushes off her questions and tells her to eat the way she usually does. Uh oh!
This is not the graphic novel for parents to pick up to teach their children manners, thanks to a big twist at the end of the book. Children on the other hand will adore this book that turns manners on their head and have the young protagonist victoriously messy in the end. Modan plays the rules of a royal dinner up with great effect. There are moments in the middle of the book that you are sure it is headed in a completely different direction. It makes for a wild ride of a book that is great fun.
The illustrations have a great vintage quality to them, something that plays well with the subject matter and makes the ending that much more of a surprise. I particularly enjoy Maya’s outfit with her hoodie and mismatched socks. The socks become all the more noticeable as she greets the queen.
A droll look at manners, this is a graphic novel perfect for even the messiest of children. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Toon Books.