Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Grump For A Day

For whatever reason, there are those mornings when your eyes first open and you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it's going to be a bad day.  Little things that would normally not bother you in the slightest add up, then multiply; things like not being able to squeeze more than a smidge out of the toothpaste tube, realizing you're going to have to use orange juice on your cereal because the date on the milk carton has expired or glancing at the gauge on your car hoping the fumes will get you to the nearest gas station.  What makes it go from bad to worse are the cheerful people who respond with phrases like, "Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed", "Put on a happy face" or "It could always be worse".

The younger you are, the more this matters.  Frustrations build until you feel something growing inside you.  It's...it's...it's a monster!  It might even be Crankenstein (Little, Brown and Company) written by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Dan Santat.

Have you seen Crankenstein?
Oh, you would totally
know if you had.

There is no mistaking being in the presence of this small human whose outlook on life has gone astray.  No siree!  For every spoken word, every incident, his stony stare will make the blood run cold in your veins.

A happy greeting, question or timely reminder will be met with a loud MEHHRRRR!  Even his reflection in a rainy puddle will give you the shivers.  You had better be careful when he comes calling at your house on Halloween especially if it's a bit chilly outside.

Woe to anyone near him when his Popsicle melts too quickly on a hot summer day, when he has been waiting in a long, long line or when he has to swallow icky-tasting cough syrup.  And it might be a good time to draw straws to see who gets to tell him it's bedtime.  By now you are beginning to wonder if the monster is stronger than the little boy.

Is there no cure for this crabby creature?  Is there any hope whatsoever?  What's that you say?  There are two of them?  This could be double the trouble or...the best thing of all...the sound of children's laughter.

Without a doubt Samantha Berger comprehends being a grump.  She also knows how hard it is not to laugh around someone who is grouchy, no matter how you are feeling.  In this title the questions posed, the situations described, are the very things to incite and increase a case of the crankies.  The tempo of the telling and the clever conclusion, are both gifts to her readers.  You can't wait to discover what happens next.

There are a select few illustrators when I see their names, I know I'm going to be chuckling at least once, if not throughout the entire book.  One of these is Dan Santat.  He has a knack for knowing which facial expressions, body postures, and details will ignite laughter in his intended audience no matter their age.

The jacket of Crankenstein explodes with pure, bold colorful emotion as little "Crankie" looks straight out at the reader with pink ice cream smeared across his mouth, the scoop of ice cream fallen from the cone topping the "T".  On the back we zoom in on the scoop sitting in the middle of a shadow of a very angry young guy.  When you remove the jacket you see a cover which I double dog dare you not to burst out laughing as you read the labeled parts of Crankenstein front and back.  Lines are drawn from phrases such as

hard-to-explain mystery stain
leftover scum from piece of gun and
still has dog poo residue (P. U.!) 

to the appropriate areas.

Opening and closing endpapers capture the main character's mood; patterned gray raindrops and golden laughing suns.  Stopping to read the title verso, especially Dan Santat's comments, is a must.  For starters, all the words in this book are hand-lettered.

Double-page spreads, edge to edge, enhance and interpret every phrase.  Readers need to notice all the little extras contributing to the humor, the labels on the maple syrup and cough syrup bottles or Crankenstein waiting 40 minutes in line only to discover a surprise up ahead.  It's the Halloween illustration which is my absolute favorite.  The colors, perspective and layout are perfection; Crankenstein all decked out in his robot costume, shivering in the cold outside as a hand holds out the tiniest piece of candy in the entire bowl.

My face actually hurts from grinning and laughing so much from reading Crankenstein by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Dan Santat.  You can't read it just once; multiple readings are a given.  Expect high demand; people love to laugh especially when they can see a little bit of themselves within the pages of a book.

Stop by Samantha Berger's and Dan Santat's websites via the links embedded in their names.  Make sure you read some of the entries in Samantha Berger's blog too.  You might want to listen to PW KidsCast: A Conversation with Samantha Berger and Dan Santat.  Here's a link to the publisher's website for a peek at some of the inside of the book.

Enjoy the book trailer and the eve of book release book trailer.

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