Quote of the Month

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Grass Is Always Greener

It was undeniably a rite of passage in our neighborhood.  As each child reached a certain age, when the first cutting of the lawn came in the spring, you could see them proudly pushing a mower.  If the yards were bigger and they were older you might see them riding on a big green John Deere.

Even today there is something satisfying about the lines made in a freshly mowed lawn and the memory-laden smell of the cut grass.  Humans are not the only ones taking pleasure in mowing.  An exceptional amphibian singles out a special day each week to complete his task.  McToad Mows Tiny Island (Abrams Books For Young Readers, September 1, 2015) a transportation tale by Tom Angleberger with pictures by John Hendrix is an extraordinary journey filled with amazement and laughter.

McToad likes Thursdays.

McToad is fond of Thursday because this is the day he gets to mow Tiny Island.  His home is on Big Island.  On Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday he mows Big Island.  

It's no easy hop, skip and a jump to get to Tiny Island.  In fact, it's quite a process to arrive at this destination.  To begin McToad fires up his red riding lawn mower moving it from the shed up a plank into the back of HIS McToad Lawn Care truck.

With the ease of a true expert McToad loads his mower from the truck using a forklift to the flat bed car of HIS train.  This train soon arrives at the airport.  (I don't know about you but at this point I am wondering how big Big Island is.)  A handy dandy conveyor belt takes his faithful grass cutter to HIS airplane.

Three vehicles, one machine and a structure of wood later, the mower and McToad land on Tiny Island.  Our audacious landscaper thoroughly enjoys his time on this plot of land in the middle of the ocean; even pausing to sip a lemonade drink.  With an equally involved return trip home the caretaker and his machine come to rest as the sun slowly sinks on the horizon.

With the first three words Tom Angleberger has our attention.  We can't help but wonder why McToad likes Thursdays.  Sentence by sentence he builds an and then kind of story.  We can feel the anticipation growing.  That's what makes the sentence in the narrative which matches the title utterly fantastic.  If you don't burst out laughing, you're probably not breathing.

Opening up the dust jacket readers can readily see John Hendrix has created another illustrative masterpiece in color, design and typography.  His use of rich reds, vibrant greens and golden yellows are warm and inviting.  McToad looks pleased beyond measure as he does what he loves best.  We want to join him.

On the back, to the left, a series of wide red arrows point out the pathway, transfers and stops McToad and his mower make on the return excursion home.  Pages from an account book with the noted property, date and amount columns filled in carefully cover the book case.  The opening endpapers feature McToad beginning a lawn with several diagonal strips indicating his progress as he faces the reader.  On the closing endpapers his work is nearly done as he putts along wearing his patched worn hat with his back to us.

Before the title page, which hints at future events, McToad stands wiping his brow, holding a walking stick with his hat on top of it.  Rendered in pen and ink with fluid acrylic washes on Strathmore Bristol vellum most of the illustrations span two pages, edge to edge.  When the narrative asks us to pause Hendrix shifts to single pages for pacing and impact.

Attentive readers will note Hendrix's nod to his children and his The Holy Ghost graphic episodes and to Tom Angleberger's middle grade novel characters.  His close-ups of McToad as he stands in front of the map in his shed and adjusts the mirror in his truck as well as when he mows Tiny Island convey pure contentment.  One of my many favorite illustrations is of McToad flying HIS helicopter to a large boat moored to a dock.  Both hands are gripping the controls as he carries the mower hanging in a tarp from the bottom of the vehicle.  He is, of course, wearing goggles.  From left to right the perspective shifts from in the air with McToad to a bird's eye view of the land.

For pure entertainment McToad Mows Tiny Island with words by Tom Angleberger and pictures by John Hendrix is unlike any other transportation tale you've read.  You can't help but feel the fun in the blend of text and images these two stellar artists must have had bringing this story to readers.  Start your engines everyone, it's time to get going and mowing.

To discover more about Tom Angleberger and John Hendrix please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  John Hendrix has a page dedicated to this book here.  If you go to Twitter and search under the title of the book, many people have sent out messages about this book.  I will include some of them below.  Tom Angleberger is interviewed at Reading Rockets in a series of videos.  Teacher librarian, Travis Jonker, reviews this title on his blog 100 Scope Notes at the School Library Journal site.  John Hendrix is a guest at teacher librarian, Matthew C. Winner's Let's Get Busy Podcast #186.  UPDATE:  November 20, 2015 Author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson, features art from this title on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast,  along with a link to her discussion of the book at Kirkus last week.

No comments:

Post a Comment