Quote of the Month

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

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bee Buzzed, But...

If you really want to emphasize the need for paying attention, truly listening, there is no better example than a game of Telephone.  How a simple statement evolves in word and meaning, as the whispered exchanges take place from person to person, is astounding and often downright funny.  Using that premise, author, Marilyn Sadler, and illustrator, Michael Slack, collaborated to create Pass It On! (Blue Apple).

Bee decides to visit his friend, Cow.  Cow is not in the barn, down by the river or beneath the apple tree but stuck (his back end) in the fence.  Offering to help, Bee makes his way to Frog.

Cow is stuck in the fence.  PASS IT ON!

Frog goes to Pig who goes to Goose who goes to Dog who goes to Cat who goes to Mouse who goes to Hen, each speaking a sentence to the other.  The problem is the sentences are all different!  It begins with frog.

Cow put a duck in the tent.  PASS IT ON!

Each new statement has a similar word taken from the previous string of words; one rhyming with the other.  By the time Hen receives the news, the group of farm animals are heading toward Cow but each for separate reasons; a duck, good luck, a woodchuck, a penny, money, milk and honey.  Hen notices Cow's fence problem rallying the barnyard troops to assistance.  With togetherness and the use of physics Cow finds relief.

Simple sentence structure by Marilyn Sadler invites newer readers to explore this story on their own.  But repetitive phrases, PASS IT ON!, and the sounds each critter makes as it moves to the next, Bee buzz-buzzed... and Pig trot-trotted..., make this a great choice for read aloud, one-on-one or with a group.  As the sentence alterations appear, you have to admire the extent of Sadler's gift with word selection as well as the clever way Cow is left in each one. 

The character gathering on the front cover, sans Cow, colorful, animated and noisy, begs readers to open the book.  Hues of blue on the front and back endpapers show each of the animals, in three rows, first receiving the information, then passing it on to the next.  The verso and dedication page picture the sky blue dashes of Bee's flight across the white double-page spread followed by another double-page spread for the title.  Bee's flight scrolls around the author's and illustrator's names, and the title from a decorative hive hanging among tree branches.

Michael Slack's bright, bold visuals are heavily laced with humor; expressive eyes, mouth positions and body language.  Frog's eyes are like two golf balls sitting on his forehead as a yo-yo hangs from his finger, Pig is wearing eyeglasses on his tiny eyes perched over a rather large snout, a blue Goose is strumming a guitar and Mouse moves around on a foot-powered scooter.  And Hen is...red, of course. 

When each animal relates their version of the truth, Slack's interpretation is pictured above their heads.  A large mallard duck, sporting sunglasses and a hat, driving a red convertible is handing a gold coin to an outstretched Cow's hoof when readers see:

A good duck gave Cow a penny.  PASS IT ON!

Deviating from his two page and one page illustrations, his sets up Cow's rescue in a series of four smaller pictures with the inevitable target being loads of laughter.

Yes, yes, yes, Pass It On! written by Marilyn Sadler with illustrations by Michael Slack has found a place on my personal bookshelves as well as in the library media center.  I found myself grinning from beginning to end with the occasional outbursts of giggling as these well intentioned but distracted farm friends make a hodgepodge of Bee's original request.  This title is so much fun and offers possibilities for teaching about listening, teamwork, sharing and gratitude. 

Note:  All the cover images online had the author's name spelled Marylyn Sadler but my personal copy had it spelled correctly, Marilyn Sadler.


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