Quote of the Month

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Inching Upward On The Outside

As a teacher librarian you see all the students each and every year as they attend your particular school.  Regardless of the level, elementary, middle or high school, they take great delight in measuring their height to yours. When you've been a whopping five foot, one and a quarter inch tall your whole adult life, their joy at finally getting close to or exceeding your height usually results in laughter for everyone.

On February 10, 2015 readers were introduced to a young frog with very particular opinions on his state of being in the title I Don't Want To Be A Frog.  He's back in a companion book I Don't Want To Be Big (Doubleday Books For Young Readers, October 11, 2016) written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt.  He may have accepted being a frog but he is more than determined to stay small.

You need to eat your dinner.
I don't want to.
You don't want to GROW?

Frog and his dad are engaged in an interesting conversation.  His father wants to understand and Frog is more than ready with an explanation.  Frog is a tad bit worried about getting too tall.  Then he's concerned about being too small.  (Ants are a part of their food group.)

Being tall is not on Frog's wish list.  In his way of thinking his dad can carry him to anything worthy of seeing.  As far as reaching delectable delights, he makes a valid point. He has 

BIG friends.  

When his dad finally sits him down to probe further into his lack of desire to be big, Frog has a lengthy litany of reasons.  He is positively certain of not wanting to be big.  As he is making a visual comparison, Pig wanders into their discussion.

Frog says the problem is he simply does want to be big regardless of Pig's reasonable reply of things, by their very nature, growing.  Pig points out some of the advantages of being big like mud and garbage.  It's Pig's final observation that throws Frog into the middle of a free-for-all.  A long held secret of generations is shared.

Told entirely in dialogue the parent and child each speak perfectly in their roles providing a contrast brimming with humor.  Dev Petty has a creative knack for getting inside her character's minds and speaking for them with a knowing voice.  After Frog's initial declaration, his dad patiently asks questions.  Frog's answers lose their credibility because his logic seems a little off.  This technique by Petty leads to Pig's final revelation, getting to the heart of why Frog does not want to grow. Here is a portion of the continuation of the first three sentences.

I don't want to be BIG.
Why not?
Well...first you're one inch,
and then two inches, then three...
When does it stop?
You can't stay small forever.
An ant stays small forever.

The bright, bold colors on the matching dust jacket and book case are used throughout the title.  You can feel a laugh bubbling up inside you as soon as you see Frog sitting by the letter G with his arms crossed, declaring the title.  To the left, on the back, using the ISBN as his soapbox, Frog issues another announcement as one of his big friends (with a trunk) fills most of the space, looking cramped.  On both the opening and closing endpapers, this big friend is holding a pencil to mark Frog's position on a vertical ruler.  There is a difference between the two reflecting the conclusion of the narrative.  On the opening flap, Frog begins his case for not being BIG with a hilarious outburst.

What makes the illustrations in this book truly enjoyable and downright fun are the various backgrounds, element placements and perspectives illustrator Mike Boldt uses.  His canvases are pale green, white, lavender, light blue, a faint golden hue, dark purple, and bright yellow.  In the speech bubbles certain words are sized larger and colored differently to intensify their meaning. 

Many of the pictures are on single pages but when the double page images appear, they make you stop and notice the shift in the story.  The first one is wordless.  After seeing it you will tend to agree with Frog's answer to his dad.  It's the facial expressions and body postures of the characters which elevate the laughter factor to new heights.  

One of my favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It is in reply to one of Frog's questions.  Frog is sitting on the ground, mouth wide open and pointing. Next to him is a tree...a big tree. Regardless of the size an elephant fails to hide behind it.  The elephant is saying in a quiet voice...Nope.

I Don't Want To Be Big written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt will have readers laughing continuously.  The images extend the humor of the story at the perfect place, on point every time.  Be sure to read this aloud repeatedly using your best frog and pig voices.  

I know you'll want to learn more about Dev Petty and Mike Boldt and their other work.  You can find this by visiting their websites, following the links attached to their names.  They both maintain blogs here and here respectively.  Author Dev Petty is interviewed at KidLit 411.  John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, showcased the cover reveal and book trailer on his blog Watch. Connect. Read.  Dev Petty takes over the blog for the cover reveal chatting about the book.  She comes back again for the book trailer release.  You can get a peek at some interior pictures at the publisher's website.

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