Quote of the Month

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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Attraction Of Opposities

Unexpected relationships can become the most lasting friendships.  It's as if the odds of two parties being companions strengthen their bond.  Their mismatched physical characteristics and clashing personalities provide a mutual attraction.  From day to day there is no sameness only surprise and endless variety.

There are authors and illustrators who bring to life enduring characters whose affectionate attachment is true as well as comical.  In his Bear and Bee (Disney Hyperion, March 12, 2013) Sergio Ruzzier presents readers with the results of misconceptions.  One of his newest titles,  Sergio Ruzzier's Fox + Chick The Party and Other Stories (Chronicle Books, April 17, 2018), a trio of tales, is certain to have you laughing out loud.

The Party

It's me Chick!

I know it's
you, Chick!
I can
see you!

In the short ensuing conversation Chick, with little effort, manages to irritate Fox to the point he slams the door in Chick's face.  Chick is persistent and knocks again.  With an oh-no-here-we-go-again look on his face Fox answers.  Chick asks to use the bathroom.

Like any normal being Fox believes Chick needs to use the bathroom for its intended purpose.  After more time than necessary, Fox investigates.  He is completely wrong in his assessment of Chick's needs.  Hilarity, like the water all over the bathroom floor, flows page after page.

In story two, meandering over to see Fox, Chick is curious as to why he is taking carrots, onions, potatoes and parsley from his garden.  He keeps pointing out the other food Fox should be eating like field mice, frogs or grasshoppers.  With frustration growing in both their demeanors, Fox finally asks Chick to name other things he should be eating.  Talking himself into a corner, Chick flees as Fox chuckles.  And yes, there is soup and a memorable humorous observation by Fox.

Hoping for peace and quiet and a chance to make art, Fox sets up his easel to paint a landscape in the third account.  Of course, Chick strolls up with his own suggestion of a subject matter to capture on the canvas.  Fox appears to agree with a single request,

sit still.

By now readers know Chick is not capable of sitting still. His inability to comply with Fox's desire not once but three times will have readers unable to keep from grinning and giggling.  The final exchange, two sentences, between Fox and Chick is full or wondrous promise.

The sense of humor displayed by Sergio Ruzzier within these pages is masterful.  He understands the contrasts to be found in what is said as opposed to what is meant and understood.  This comprehension is a gift to his readers.  Told entirely in dialogue and wordless images, these three stories build a subtle tension phrase by phrase leading to the inevitable and joyful conclusion.  Here is one conversation.

Fox, you can paint my portrait now.
Just sit still, please.

I am hungry.

You just ate three bowls of soup.

I will go and get a snack.  Then I will sit very still on that rock. 

No other artist selects shades of color as does Sergio Ruzzier.  These colors seen on the dust jacket (and throughout the book) are one of many reasons we enjoy his quirky settings and the elements in each of them.  His characters' faces, longer noses and smaller eyes and each carefully placed line, convey exactly what we need to know in even given situation.  The smiles on Fox and Chick on the front lead us to believe they are friends.  With Chick stating the obvious we are receiving a huge hint at the hilarity to come.

To the left, on the back, the duo is enjoying a moment together outside in a field.  A golden yellow and wide band of reddish-orange along the spine cover the book case.  In the lower right-hand corner Fox and Chick are featured.  Chick is riding on Fox's tail, much to his disgust.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in the pattern of tiles in Fox's kitchen.  There are tiny details added to the concluding endpapers.  On the title page, Fox on his back with his legs extended in the air, is balancing a laughing Chick on his feet.

Rendered in pen, ink and watercolor the illustrations for each of the three narrative chapter beginnings feature a more panoramic two-page picture.  These are followed by panels, sometimes two, three or four to a page.  Their shapes and sizes supply pacing and an inviting design. They are framed in a loose fine line or white space.  For emphasis we are treated to images spanning two pages at least one more time in each tale.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It's in the story titled Good Soup.  Chick has just realized what he has said.  An intertwined landscape of three rolling hills is backed by a forest on the left and two rocky outcroppings on the right.  Chick is running away up a path to the woods.  Fox is closest to us, carrying his basket of garden goodies.  His eyes are closed in a smile as he walks away.  Chick exclaims:


Handing this book, Sergio Ruzzier's Fox + Chick The Party and Other Stories, to readers (making sure it's on your professional and personal book shelves) is sure to add more joy to their day.  The humor is refined to perfection.  No matter how many times you read these tales, you will laugh.  It would seem there is a companion title on the way in 2019.  I can hardly wait.

To learn more about Sergio Ruzzier and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  You can view interior images from this book at his website too.  Sergio maintains an account on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website a teacher's guide is supplied for your use.  Sergio visits author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to discuss this book.  He offers loads of process art and explanations.  

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