Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You Say You Want A Pet?

You have to wonder if we are somehow genetically wired to desire the companionship of creatures, large or small, in our homes as part of our daily lives.  From an early age gals and guys most certainly not only want but feel they need a pet.  Maybe it's as simple as desiring to nurture being a part of our inherent nature.

From experience I know most parents have a long, detailed list of reasons for not getting any kind of a pet.  But even mine would have looked with admiration and in stunned silence at the parents of this pigtailed prodigy.  You'll feel a grin begin to grow from as early as the jacket flaps when reading The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Zachariah OHora.

I asked my parents for a pet.
My parents answered, "Not quite yet."

The parents of this girl have responded with a requirement of  research; what kind of pet she wants, all the associated costs and to personally observe each possibility.  As proof of these endeavors, they've requested she write everything down.  Her first stop is the farm.

A rather cranky cow, a  haranguing hen, a persnickety pony, a dove who delights in dropping doo-doo and stinky sheep have our gal making a hasty retreat to another animal residence, the zoo.  Her findings there are equally frustrating; a monkey with disgusting habits, a tiger who tastes humans (gulp), a penguin with no mind or mannerisms of his own,  a hippo who is much too large and a polar bear with dietary requirements a tad on the gross side.  Reflecting on her possibilities, she decides to head closer to home.

Into the woods the smells of a skunk cement her original thoughts on the species, the bustling of squirrels have her dreaming of their handiness as landscapers, and the garden marauding of bunnies let her know there's another place she needs to go.  Now in her home she wonders about a gobbling goldfish, ambitious ants, a too small dog and a turncoat cat.  No...no...no...and no have her exploring once more.  Her frustration is growing as her hope of finding the perfect pet gets smaller.

A stop at the pet store is disheartening; from the slow-moving turtle to the multiplying gerbils to the unpredictable guinea pig to the parrot with no social skills to the why-are-there-so-many mice and the hungry snake, our traveling investigator is left in a quandary.  With the precision of a career scientist, with all possibilities exhausted, there is only once conclusion that can be drawn.  These twenty-seven plus poetic thoughts written with care will lead readers to a surprising last line. ( I can hear the exclamations now--"She wants a what!")

Our elementary school was fortunate enough several years ago through our generous PTO to have Lisa Wheeler spend a day in our building.  The wit and wisdom, rhythm and rhyme, and playful use of language found in her books is part and parcel of her bubbling personality.  In this title the poetry simply rolls off your tongue with pacing creating a catchy beat.  With the honest, no-holds-barred notes of the girl, readers will find it hard to not burst out laughing.  

Rendered in acrylic paints the illustrations in this title roar out at readers beginning with the double-page matching jacket and cover.  Zachariah OHora's use of heavy black lines to accentuate the elements in his visuals draw readers' eyes exactly where they need to go.  The jacket flaps cleverly align with the opening and closing endpapers; a row of thirteen different animals all cheerfully facing us in the beginning but showing us the backside of each in the end.  One animal does seem to be missing though...and the snake slithering off the page has a huge lump in its middle.  A limited color palette, shades of green, red, gold, orange and tan heighten focus.

The close-up of the top of the girl's head, pigtails sticking out, spread out across both the title pages is the first hint of numerous touches of humor.  It's easy to see with pictures featuring varying but distinctive perspectives exactly how the girl feels about her latest inquiries.  OHora's interpretation, his extension of the text, is downright clever.  While I like the pony appearing in a beauty salon chair under the dryer, getting a pedicure, my favorite is the illustration accompanying the bunnies rhyme.  We get to see the furry fiends in action underground. 

The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses by Lisa Wheeler with illustrations by Zachariah OHora is a riotous, romp, an exploration brimming with humor, not to be missed.  The poems beginning on the jacket flap, continuing with an introductory warning and filling the remaining pages are fun...fun...fun.  This title is sure to be a favorite with readers and listeners alike.

For more information about the author and illustrator follow the links embedded in their names to their websites.  Follow this link to Zachariah OHora's blog for a look at the process involved in the cover development.  Here is a link to an interview of Zachariah OHora at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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