Thursday, March 24, 2011

Children Make Terrible Pets, By Peter Brown (2010)

Children Make Terrible Pets
Peter Brown is, unlike the other author/illustrators we've been reading, fairly new to the picture book scene.  This is his sixth book, and it's both laugh-out-loud funny and unexpectedly resonant.

On the book jacket, Brown explains the incident that inspired his story: "When I was a child, I once found a frog in the woods and brought it home to be my pet.  My mom was not happy.  'Would you like it if a wild animal made YOU its pet?' she asked.  'To which I replied, 'Absolutely!"

Through whimsical images and all-too-familiar dialogue ("You can keep him on ONE condition.  Squeaker is YOUR responsibility. I will not take care of him for you," Brown tells the story of what happens when one (tutu-wearing) Lucille Beatrice Bear brings home a little boy named Squeaker.  The playfulness of both the story and the illustrations also drives the form.  Brown embraces an eclectic combination of media: "pencil on paper, with cut construction paper and wood and a wee bit of digital tweaking" (as he explains in the author's note).  Similarly, he blends more traditional picture book conventions with those of the graphic novel, putting the entire narrative in text boxes and hand-lettered word bubbles.  The result is a delightful volume that feels simultaneously nostalgic (most dramatically through its intentionally yellowed pages and sepia endpapers) and unmistakably 21st century.

Bonus:  The word bubbles invite adults and children reading together to each take a "part;" even pre-readers can manage Squeakers role since he can only say "Squeak!"

Miss E's Read: Her favorite page is the last one, where Lucy Bear meets her next "pet"; she couldn't stop giggling when she thought about the havoc-potential (which is admittedly significant!).

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