Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Two Terrible

In some situations defined as less than desirable, it's a good idea to give it the it could always be worse test.  Even then sometimes you feel so trapped, helpless or frightened you believe it is truly horrible until life gives you another set of circumstances which is much worse.  Given a choice it's a good time to apply the concept of the lesser of two evils.  In fact you will probably wonder why you thought the first prospect is dreadful.

Many times as a child it's hard to get adults to see your viewpoint.  Sean Ferrell has penned a story that is at once familiar and entirely unique.  Illustrator Charles Santoso enhances those words with every bit of available space.  I Don't Like Koala (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, April 14, 2015) will stay with you long after the cover is closed.

Adam does not like Koala.

This gift, this toy, is the most disturbing thing he has ever received.  The eyes are weird, seemingly following him no matter where he is.  It's downright creepy.

Adam explains over and over to his parents how much he dislikes this Koala.  He finds it utterly disgusting.  They fail to comprehend how upset he is.

Each night Adam follows his typical bedtime habits.  Each night Adam hides Koala, hoping to never see him again.  He falls asleep alone and happy but every morning snuggled in bed with him is Koala.  YIKES!

He tries to throw him away at home.  He tries to leave him at the grocery store.  Adam's dad and mom retrieve Koala each time.  No matter how many times Adam repeats

"I don't like Koala!"

that toy is sticking to him like glue courtesy of his parents.

The eerie factor heightens when after a long trek Adam returns home to find Koala has arrived there first.  How is this possible?  He left him far away.  That evening getting ready for bed, Adam knows nothing on this earth is more sinister than Koala.  A double twist will leave you trembling... and grinning.

Readers jump in with both feet after reading the first sentence written by Sean Ferrell.  Why we ask?  Adam, in succinct sentences, speaks his mind through the narrator and his outbursts to his parents.  Ferrell provides a cadence with each set of words and pacing with the page turns.  We are emotionally invested in what happens to Adam.  That's why the two turns of events at the end are absolute perfection.  Here is another sample passage.

Adam puts Koala away.
Away is a lot of different places.

But every morning
when Adam wakes up...

There is no doubt Adam does not like Koala when readers first see the matching dust jacket and book case.  The look of utter disdain on his face as he flings the toy sends a powerful message.  On the back, to the left, in the lower right-hand corner Adam is carrying Koala in outstretched arms as if he is toxic.  

Illustrations rendered in pencil and colored digitally by Charles Santoso begin the story on the opening endpapers.  On the left a pair of hands is giving a joyful Adam a wrapped present.  With wonder and anticipation in his eyes Adam unties the ribbon on the right.  When looking at the jacket, case and initial endpapers, we are aware of the adept use of white space by Santoso.  On the verso and title page we see the loose ribbon and Adam's hand lifting the lid on the box.  One Koala eye is peeking out.  

With a page turn and the first sentence, Adam is standing far away holding the lid clearly distraught over his gift.  In a stroke of genius Santoso next places an extreme close-up of Koala across two pages.  The eyes are most certainly strange.  Someone goofed at the toy factory.  

Throughout the remainder of the narrative Santoso supplies a series of smaller images, sometimes framed like panels, along with larger ones to masterfully match the text.  Adam's expressions are truthful but hilarious at the same time.  The positions of Koala will have you laughing and wondering.  When Adam is brushing his teeth, just a portion of Koala can be seen looking in the mirror at him.

At one point Santoso throws readers a curve in his interpretation of Adam's trek and return home.  The final four images cover both pages and the closing endpapers.  They take place at night so the prevalent white space is replaced.  These make a huge statement.  

One of my favorite series of pictures spans across two pages.  In eleven small images we are privy to all the hiding places Adam tries to hide Koala.  In the final circular visual Adam is sound asleep smiling.  It's a wonderful set-up for the page turn.  

I Don't Like Koala written by Sean Ferrell with pictures by Charles Santoso is one of the best spooky but not too spooky books of 2015 so far.  No matter how many times I've read it, I keep laughing out loud at the combination of words and images.  Get ready to hear a chorus of read it again.  You might want to have a toy Koala available for hugging...or not.

To learn more about Sean Ferrell and Charles Santoso please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Charles Santoso also maintains posts at Tumblr.  Follow this link to a book review and a series of illustrations at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by author and blogger, Julie Danielson.  You will be laughing by the end of the book trailer.

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