Quote of the Month

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fear Flies In The Face Of Friendship

Most of us have things which we wish to avoid at all costs.  These ask us to leave our personal zone which is far too comfortable.  The number of these things on our list of risks to never take can be very few or vast.  What one may fear, another might find completely enjoyable.

It seems it would be difficult to fully appreciate your world if you had the jitters more often than not.  Peep and Egg: I'm Not Hatching (Farrar Straus Giroux, February 9, 2016) written by Laura Gehl with pictures by Joyce Wan presents to readers two cute little cheepers.  As the title suggests one has no wish to get cracking.

"Are you hatching yet?" Peep asked.  "We're going to have so much fun once you hatch!"
"Too scary," said Egg. "I'm not hatching."

Peep speaks of all their possible adventures on the farm beginning with watching the sunrise.  In response Egg whispers a refrain which will become all too familiar.  Egg also starts to add reasons, believing they justify apprehension.

The puddles are too wet.  There will be no duck watching because the walk to the pond is much too long.  Noise in the barnyard is much too loud to even consider a game of hide-and-seek.  It's not for lack of mathematical skills but the night is dark, dark, dark.  There will be no star counting.

With a final attempt, appealing to a youthful appetite, Peep implores Egg to join in the proposed good times.  Egg's shouted retort and Peep's answer seem to end the entire discussion...or do they?

Laura Gehl has perfected with supreme simplicity and clarity the mindset of an individual, initially through nervousness and later perhaps due to stubbornness, unwilling to take a step forward.  In the character of Peep she reveals to readers a tender-hearted soul that entreats by example.  By having Egg repeat the signature phrase, supplying a subtle but welcoming beat, this is an invitation to readers to participate in the story.

The thick outlines in black (and other colors within the interior pages) are a marvelous artistic choice by Joyce Wan when illustrating a title for a younger audience.  In the matching dust jacket and book case, these draw the readers' eyes immediately to the two characters.  The pastel color palette here and bold, cheerful hues throughout are joyfully and playfully splendid.  You already know Peep is as determined as Egg, providing tension and comedy.  To the left, on the back, you are given a bit of a hint of events to come with Peep offering a tasty pastry to Egg.

On the opening endpapers is Egg presented in rows with one small exception; a surprise under the lower, left-hand flap.  The closing endpapers showcase the resolution in an image asking us to join in the scene.  On the verso Peep is peeking over the upper, left-hand edge looking at the reader.  On the opposite page, the title page, Egg is, well, an egg but an egg with an opinion.

Wan makes wonderful use of white as a powerful element in her images.  She brings the reader closer to the characters at key points in the storyline; the better to see Peep's expressions.  The sizes of her pictures, single or double page, create a tandem cadence with the text. 

One of my favorite illustrations of many is when Peep is pointing out to Egg how much fun it would be to count the stars.  The background is a rich purple dotted with stars and a crescent moon.  Peep and Egg are perched on the front of a red tractor.

Peep and Egg: I'm Not Hatching written by Laura Gehl with pictures by Joyce Wan is an endearing view of how friendship can help overcome fear.  The excellently paced narrative with equally delightful illustrations is sure to be a favorite read aloud.  It would be wonderful as a reader's theater.

To discover more about Laura Gehl and Joyce Wan and their other work please follow the links attached to their names.  You can see some interior pictures from the book at the publisher's website.   Here is an extensive teacher's guide for this title written by Marcie Colleen.  Laura Gehl and Joyce Wan chat at author Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).  Laura Gehl wrote a guest post at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Joyce Wan is interviewed at KidLit411.  There are illustrations and process art.  Enjoy the book trailer.

Some individuals can hardly contain their excitement and are thrilled with Halloween.  There are also those who view the entire holiday through eyes covered with their hands ninety-nine per cent of the time.  For them the spooky celebration and particularly the eerie guests (costumed and imagined) are too frightening.

The darling duo has returned in a companion title, Peep and Egg: I'm Not Trick-or-Treating (Farrar Straus Giroux, August 9, 2016) written by Laura Gehl with pictures by Joyce Wan.  Having conquered a fear of hatching, Egg is now worried about October 31st.  It's only once a year but thoughts of those things which go bump in the night give Egg the shivers.

"Trick-or-treating is going to be so much fun," Peep said.
"Are you ready yet?"
"Too scary," said Egg.
"I'm not trick-or-treating."

Initially Egg refuses to dress in a costume.  When Peep suggests their first place to visit, Egg believes it will be occupied by vampires.  Peep, obviously disappointed, suggests a much drier spot.  Egg is not convinced and issues a resounding negative answer.

Remembering how a different approach assisted Egg in breaking through the shell, Peep believes humor might work.  There is not the slightest hint of a smile on Egg's face.  This attempt appears to backfire, actually prompting another outburst.

Peep is a persistent pal though.  Was that a teehee? Peep keeps going.  Was that a guffaw?  This could be working.  Oh, no.  Well, Peep did try.  Finally using a proven technique, fright in the night might make everything all right.

In this companion title Laura Gehl shifts her narrative rhythm. Told entirely through dialogue, as in the first book, you can see both of her characters growing.  Peep tries three different approaches to persuade Egg.  While Egg's reactions are ultimately the same, readers can begin to see trust growing a bit sooner.  The insertion of a form of a comedy routine is highly engaging.

Whether you are acquainted with these two characters from the previous book or not, you have to admit that the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is cuter than cute.  Peep looks downright adorable in the butterfly costume and the contrast with a determined and negative Egg begins the laughter in readers' hearts.  The larger lines and the rounded shapes are a huge draw for the intended audience.

A pattern of the whites of scary eyes in a black space covers the opening endpapers.  Be sure to peek under the lower, left-hand corner of the flap for a little gift.  The closing endpapers continue the story with a purple canvas covered in happy-go-lucky jack-o-lanterns.  Peep and Egg are there too.  On the verso a calendar with October 31 circled hangs above a costumed Peep dashing toward Egg hiding behind a bale of hay on the title page.  A pumpkin trick-or-treat basket sits next to the hay.

Fully animated Peep and Egg are presented in a variety of image sizes, alternating from two-page pictures with white or bright-colored backgrounds, to single page close-ups framed in orange and sometimes several visuals will be placed on one page to provide pacing.  As in the first title, readers can enjoy looking at the tiny details provided by Wan; the itsy-bitsy "vampire teeth" on the ducks, the pumpkin lights hanging in the trees and Halloween pennants draped in the barn and along the fence.  Careful readers will notice a particular small, eight-legged arachnid as it journeys throughout the story.

One of my favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Peep is encouraging Egg with the suggestion of a visit to the cows.  Egg imagines Peep crawling between the fencing as he stays hidden.  The smiling cows looking straight at the readers are wrapped to appear like mummies.

Peep and Egg: I'm Not Trick-or-Treating written by Laura Gehl with pictures by Joyce Wan is a charming confection.  Readers will laugh and sigh in all the right places; Gehl's text and Wan's pictures are a flawless mix.  This is a marvelous choice for younger readers and listeners at Halloween.

You can view interior pages at the publisher's website.  Laura Gehl visits YA and Kids BookCentral.  Joyce Wan stops to chat at The Little Crooked Cottage.  Joyce Wan stops by KidLit TV to teach us how to draw Peep and Egg.


  1. Replies
    1. They are so cute I can hardly stand it, Maria. I will be handing them out to trick-or-treaters next year.