Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Appreciating The Good

Oh, sometimes it's so hard to not to listen to the green-eyed monster as they whisper in your ear.  You look at one person or another focusing on what they can do or have; abilities, qualities or objects which they posses and you do not.  You forget the importance of each individual, the necessity of all to be a part of a larger whole.

As you dwell on what they have, your confidence, your self-esteem, sinks lower.  Before you know it, the green-eyed monster has taken up residence in your heart.  Written and illustrated by Bob Shea, Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great (Disney Hyperion Books) takes a good look at jealousy, envy, so you know exactly what to do the next time it tries to wiggle its way into your thoughts.

Things are a lot different around here since that Unicorn moved in.

Goat was feeling mighty good riding his bike to school. Like a balloon getting stuck by the proverbial pin, his feeling good left in a flash when Unicorn flew, yes flew, right over his head.  Let's compare this...riding a bike to school or flying to school. Hmmmm....

Goat's plate of marshmallow squares looks pathetic when Unicorn makes it rain, yes rain, cupcakes.  No wonder Unicorn is surrounded by adoring friends.  Perhaps Goat can regain some attention with his talent show dancing.  Nope.  Unicorn looks like the latest winner of Dancing With The Stars. How can Goat's coin trick compare to Unicorn turning things into gold?  Yes, readers, he turns things into gold.

Goat sinks into a verbal fit of despair, frustration and resentment.  Quite frankly, who can blame him?  Sitting down to eat his favorite slice of pizza, you-know-who comes strolling up to investigate.  From then on, the other side of the coin is revealed.

Unicorn is absolutely over-the-moon with the smell and taste of pizza covered in goat cheese.  Unicorns don't have cheese.  In fact Unicorn starts to point out other qualities Goat has that Unicorn lacks.  From dreams of superhero rescues to a fast friendship Goat and Unicorn figure out they are like two pieces in a perfect puzzle.

From his astute observations of people and his ability to be direct, Bob Shea's narrative has purposeful appeal for the intended audience.  From the time I opened the cover, until I turned the final page, the smile on my face got bigger and bigger.  He puts into words exactly how children feel, what they say and think.  Goat's telling of this tale is true to life, lively and filled with language sure to elicit laughs in abundance.  Here is an excerpt.

Whoa! What is up with your hooves?
Those things are
 out of control. 

Oh, these?
These bad boys
are "cloven."
It means they're 
split at the end.

The matching jacket and cover, front and back, foreshadow the extent of Goat's attitude toward the neighborhood newcomer.  The bright colors, as varied as the rainbow which seems to follow Unicorn, placed on the pure white background throughout much of the book, add to the overall attraction.  The rows of vibrant cupcakes on the opening and closing endpapers not only showcase Unicorn's gifts but offer the possibility of a happy resolution to the story.  The illustration on the title page might be my favorite; a smiling, cheerful-eyed rain cloud with a tiny heart sprouting out, looking at Unicorn dancing in a yellow circle as rain falls every place else, including on a disgruntled-looking Goat.

The shapes of Bob Shea's characters in a variety of bright hues, with his black lines added to distinguish personalities and individual traits, are expressive and downright endearing.  The altered, bold backgrounds are reflected in opposite pages; a clever design technique.  The contrast between Goat's efforts and those of Unicorn are pictured so well, all readers will respond to the hilarity.  Despite Goat's original mood all the elements of this title work together to create an uplifting whole.

The single factor about Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great written and illustrated by Bob Shea, found in those children's books which have stood the taste of time and more than a few titles this year, is the care given, the details addressed in words and pictures.  Bob Shea loves what he does and it shows.  Whether reading with a few children or a larger group, this title is a winner.  Reading it aloud is a joy.

Please follow the link embedded in Bob Shea's name above to his official website.  This link is to an interview at babble.  Julie Danielson, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, interviews him at Kirkus here.  Enjoy the trailers.

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