Quote of the Month

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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Use Extreme Caution

After fourteen years living in northern Michigan you would think I would be used to the wind; more days are windy than not.  As a weather nerd (I frequently check NOAA National Weather Service to follow local, state and national weather) I've noticed this year in addition to Small Craft Advisories or Gale Warnings, a new type of alert, Beach Hazards Statement.  This advises people to watch for high wave action, longshore currents and rip currents.  People know wind combined with these headlines are serious.

There are other times when an alert, advisory or warning is an invitation to do the exact opposite of the request.  Perhaps you or someone else are doing something particularly annoying; one or the other will utter these oft-heard words, "I'm warning you, ..."  To the frustration of one, the other continues with glee.  The very finest demands to ignore though are found within the pages of a book.  Every single page turn in Warning: Do Not Open This Book! (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August 27, 2013) narrated by Adam Lehrhaupt with illustrations by Matthew Forsythe is a tantalizing temptation.

Maybe you should put this book back.
You don't want to let the monkeys out.

Immediately you are wondering how and why monkeys got trapped inside a book.  You are compelled beyond your control to turn the next page.  This completed compulsion is greeted with a question.

The narrator is inquiring as to why you are here and not back where it is safer.  If you stay on this page, you are still in a risk-free area.  It would be a very good thing to remain right where you are.

Desire to discover the truth has deepened.  What's the worst that could happen?  It's a book after all.  Right?


Here they come.

First one, then eight more monkeys of all shapes and sizes scamper across the pages carrying art supplies and a musical instrument.  What are these roaming rascals going to do?  It's a jungle, a rather sloppy jungle, but they've painted a jungle!  Whew, okay...this is a situation which can be handled without fear. Why are we readers being cautioned to stop turning pages?

Yikes!  I guess if you have tropical trees an invasion of toucans is a given.  Above the chaotic noise another sound is heard.  It's not a good sound....not a good sound at all.  Readers are now wishing they would have listened.  They should have heeded the advice of the faithful narrator.  Will a fruitful trap be able to save the day?

Readers could not ask for a better narrator, author, than Adam Lehrhaupt to tell this tale of playful pandemonium.  Each sentence is structured, despite words to the contrary, to entice readers to proceed.  As readers fall farther under the spell he has verbally cast, they realize there is no turning back.  Even if they could they don't want to; they're having too much fun with Lehrhaupt as the perfect partner on this adventure.

Digitally rendered illustrations by artist Matthew Forsythe enhance and extend this story from the matching front jacket and cover onward.  From the tape, chains and glaring messages on the front to the opening endpapers, the results of not taking the title seriously are clearly delineated.  A pattern of various style signs with wit and wisdom warn and question; my favorite is HERE IS THE LAST GUY WHO READ THIS BOOK with an arrow pointing to a skull.  (At this point I can barely contain laughter.)

Grays, browns, golds and greens in earth tone hues color pictures varying in size and position.  Some are front and center, others cover a single page or extend across the gutter.  Backgrounds shift from white, lots of white, to a pale golden, and to a deep gray green. Once the first monkey head peeks from the lower right-hand corner of a double-page spread  the jungle jive begins; those primates move, groove and rest with a passion.  I think one of my favorite text and illustrative combinations is

Can you stop now?
Everything used to
be so good.
Wait! Did you hear...

The two-page spread of the monkey faces close up with the accompanying toucans, wide-eyed and questioning, is loaded with premonition (and hilarity).  The closing endpapers and back jacket with corresponding cover are all part of the story, too.

Four words come to mind when thinking of Warning: Do Not Open This Book! narrated by Adam Lehrhaupt with illustrations by Matthew Forsythe, impeccable pacing and relentless humor.  Reading it aloud makes it even better.  This book is meant to be shared.  Believe me...your listeners will ask for this title over and over.  I'm tempted to pair this with James Stevenson's Don't Make Me Laugh.

Please follow the links above to the author and illustrator websites for more information about each.  Here is the link to a recent interview of Adam Lehrhaupt at Watch. Connect. Read. by John Schumacher.  Please visit the blog post of the debut of the book trailer.  Have fun and open this book at will... as long as you have a banana.

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