Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Frustrated Forecaster

There will be days when you not only feel unappreciated; you are unappreciated.  The stress of being stuck in a rut weighs heavily on your entire outlook.  You are locked into a time schedule over which you have no control.  To make matters even worse you are just plain tired.  You NEED a vacation.

For most people making a checklist and following it to the letter means you are good to go on that much needed rest.  For others their absence leaves a huge hole in the scheme of things affecting a great many individuals. Groundhog's Day Off (Bloomsbury, December 8, 2015) written by Robb Pearlman with illustrations by Brett Helquist calls our attention to a holiday hero who has had it.

Every year, on one special day in February, Groundhog wakes up extra early.

On this day hordes of people hover around Groundhog's hole.  Every year the only thing of interest to them is whether there will more winter weather or will the signs spring begin to appear.  Most disheartening to Groundhog is these women and men and girls and boys have no real interest in him at all.  They could care less about his likes and dislikes.

THIS year is different.  Groundhog pens a letter, packs his bag and heads off to the spa for a vacation.  And...he takes his shadow.  Thinking as quickly as she can, the mayor decides to hold auditions for replacements.

Well, let me tell you, this does not go well at all.  An elephant, an ostrich, a monkey, a bat, an owl, a mole, an opossum, a puppy and one quirky human have distinct physical characteristics and habits which hinder their bids for the position.  The mayor realizes there is only one animal that can do this job correctly.

A newscast is heard by a relaxing rodent who rallies in a heartbeat.  Could it be true?  Have the townspeople and the reporters changed?  That special day in February comes and goes.  In case you and Groundhog think all is right in the world, a double dose of twists awaits.

Author Robb Pearlman creates a pleasing blend of narration and dialogue with heaps of humor.  He assigns funny features to the contestants elevating the laughter.  His gift to readers is when they think happily ever after has happened but the comedy continues.  Here is another sample passage.

But the one thing they never ask Groundhog about is him.

No "How are you feeling?"
No "Have you seen any good movies lately?"
No "Do you like mushrooms on your pizza?"
Not even "Who does your fur?"

Brett Helquist's signature use of line, color and the facial features on his animals (and people) is apparent on the dust jacket (I am working with an F & G.)  The layout, the use of an arch, the circle of Groundhog's suitcase and the shape of his tennis racket combined with the rays of yellow and blue welcome the reader into the story.  On the back, to the left, the background is a brighter shade of those rays framed in scallops of reds and triangles of orange along the top and bottom.  Groundhog is diving into his hole.

Prior to the verso and title pages a two-page image depicts the town with people gathering around Groundhog's fenced-in home.  A winter weary man is reading a newspaper with the headline reading,

(I believe this is the opening endpaper.)

A page turn shows a small inset of Groundhog brushing his teeth.  On the opposite page he is startled awake by his alarm ringing.  Helquist begins his visual story even before the text starts.

With the remaining illustrations he uses small ovals, circles or free forms with elements outside the border, full page pictures edge to edge or loosely framed with a combination of his brush strokes and white space.  For emphasis his images span both pages.  The expressions on all the characters, particularly Groundhog, are wonderfully funny.  It should be noted that for three of the illustrations there is hardly any color to match Groundhog's initial mood.

One of my favorite images is of Groundhog at the spa.  He is resting on a bed, bamboo growing behind him.  Candles are burning around the room.  Cucumbers are placed over his eyes.  His body is under an herbal wrap.  As he listens to the news on a television with a remote in one paw, the other is lifting a cucumber slice. He is definitely startled by the news.

While you may think you have the ultimate collection of Groundhog Day books, it is lacking without this title, Groundhog's Day Off written by Robb Pearlman with illustrations by Brett Helquist.  Pearlman has cleverly inserted the facts associated with the holiday but continues with a charming narrative.  Everyone will be laughing from beginning to end because they will see bits and pieces of themselves, even if they are not a groundhog, in this story.  The final double-page wordless illustration (closing endpaper) by Helquist is hilarious.

To learn more about Robb Pearlman and Brett Helquist please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Brett Helquist posted about his process for this book on his blog here, here and here.


  1. Replies
    1. It's one of the best books about Groundhog Day I have ever read; two stories in one!