Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hidden In View

As the sun sets on a summer afternoon filled with freedom or on one of those final warm days in autumn, a chill seeping into the air, neighborhood guys and gals gather for a rousing game of hide-and-seek.  Each player searches to find the perfect spot out of sight or blending in with their surroundings and standing as still as stone.  Excitement swirls around the participants, each thrilling at their ability to elude the one hoping to find them.

The enjoyment in this ability to evade discovery is heightened when shared.  In Where's Walrus? (Scholastic Press, February 1, 2011) Stephen Savage introduced readers to a quick-witted walrus and a frustrated zookeeper.  Those two have returned in a companion title, Where's Walrus? And Penguin? (Scholastic Press, August 25, 2015).  This time Walrus has a willing partner in Penguin.  The laughter doubles as these two boldly blend in wherever they go.

If you remember the first story involves a swimming event and the zookeeper's kindness toward Walrus's fondness for diving.  On the title page, executing a perfect swan dive into his pool, Walrus is silently observed by a penguin.  Next Walrus knowingly looks right at the reader.

With rain steadily falling, the zookeeper holds open the gate for patrons and those with children, umbrellas overhead keeping them dry.  As they file out, Walrus and Penguin join them at the end of the line.  A shocked zookeeper scurries to find them, first checking the subway.  Those two clever creatures mirror other occupants.  Readers will burst out in giggles.

A newsstand on the street, a pigeon-feeding bench in the park, a crew team gliding on the river, a busy street in the city center, a night at the opera and a baseball game provide fun and entertainment for the escapees.  These places also act as the ultimate venues for disguises.  Walrus tends to favor a variety of hats.  Penguin usually uses his natural physical attributes.

After a fly ball has Walrus zigging and zagging on the field the game is over for the tricky twosome.  The trio, Walrus, Penguin and the determined zookeeper, find themselves in a location where hiding is not an option.  Love, as they say, will find a way.

Opening the dust jacket, the design on the front is reversed on the back to reveal the zookeeper, net at rest, standing in front of the newsstand, wondering how Walrus and Penguin could have disappeared so quickly.  They are, in fact, in plain sight which begins the first of numerous hilarious episodes.  Exhibiting his first-rate design skills Stephen Savage blends his name and the ISBN into the cityscape.  The primary and secondary colors pop when combined with the gray, black and white.  (As he did in the first title, Savage adds just the right amount of shades of pink exactly where and when they are needed.)

Having Walrus, in a close-up, stare at us, his mouth forming a grin with its natural shape, on the verso and first page, Savage asks us to join the adventure.  A single drop of rain on Walrus's flipper starts the story.  You know even before you turn the page, Walrus has a plan.

In each of the two-page images, drawn and created digitally, readers pause for several reasons. We are looking first and foremost, as is the zookeeper, for Walrus and Penguin.  The exquisite layout and design using geometric shapes and simple but expressive lines hold our attention in appreciation.

One of my favorite illustrations of several is the busy city street.  In front of buildings filled with windows, among the cars and trucks, are three limousines.  Moving to the left of the page is one with Penguin as the chauffeur and Walrus, sporting a top hot, riding in the rear seat.  In the foreground is a yellow taxi cab heading to the right.  The zookeeper looks out the window at us, almost as if he knows we know where those two rascals truly are.

As well-created as the first title, Where's Walrus? And Penguin? written without words and illustrated by Stephen Savage is a fine and playful achievement.  It's a brilliant example of less is more. I can't help but wonder (and hope) if we will see these characters in another lively romp away from the zoo.

To discover more about Stephen Savage and his work please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  If you haven't read his interview by author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, make sure you stop there now.
Enjoy the book trailer.

Here's Stephen Savage reading this title out loud at KitLit TV.

Update:  March 9, 2016 Stephen Savage appears again on KidLit TV talking about this title and several of his earlier books.

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