Quote of the Month

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Brave Bovine And A Buddy

Decades ago my parents joined other couples in our local community to form a square dance group.  They would gather at the nearby township hall on Saturdays to dance.  There were often family nights and special celebrations for holidays.  One of the most memorable events was one particular Halloween.

Partners were required to go in costume.  Mom was all decked out in a homemade scarecrow outfit. My dad was about average build but he was strong, working in the same factory for more than forty-one years.  To see him standing in the doorway wearing pink ballerina attire, from head to toe, is something you never forget especially when a bald man is wearing a wig.

It's the contrast between what you know to be true and what you see that creates the comedy.  Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers present Moo Moo in a Tutu (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, April 25, 2017) written and illustrated by Tim Miller provides readers with a similar disparity and much more.  You can hardly say the title without laughing.

Mr. Quackers, I just had the best idea in the whole world!

Another one?

This cow and this duck, best buddies, share an apartment in a large city.  Readers know what Moo Moo's idea is.  It's not until after several false guesses and a big reveal that Mr. Quackers fully comprehends.  He is flabbergasted!  How can a cow become a ballerina?

When Mr. Quackers points out the lack of training on Moo Moo's part, Moo Moo is not deterred regardless of a rather large crash during practice.  Lickety split the duo head to the theater across the street.  Moo Moo is ready to perform.  Ever the faithful friend Mr. Quackers is ready to watch.

Suspense builds as Mr. Quackers strolls down the aisle and takes a seat.  Moo Moo heads backstage assuring his pal nothing will be broken.  To the shock of the three ballerinas already on stage, Moo Moo joins them.

Moo Moo's impressive dancing makes for an unforgettable performance.  Leaving the theater and then at home, Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers have an interesting conversation brimming with possibilities.  This duck is certainly unprepared for their surprising next adventure.

Told entirely in dialogue placed in speech balloons, Tim Miller spins a narrative introducing us to Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers within the first few pages.  Their personalities and relationship are more thoroughly revealed as the story continues; the one firmly grounded on terra firma while the other seeks high-flying adventures.  Humor fills their conversations and their remarks to others.  Here is a sample passage.

But you've never taken ballet lessons.

It's okay.  I'm a quick learner.


That last move is a little trickier
than it looks, but I've almost got it.

If you say so.

There's something about a cow wearing a pink tutu and leaping across a stage which causes instant laughter.  The expression Mr. Quackers is wearing enhances the absurdity of this entire situation on the front of the dust jacket.  The theater design with the spotlight beams making a geometric pattern with Moo Moo front and center is marvelous.  To the left, on the back, an image is framed and tacked to the wall.  It's Moo Moo painting a portrait of Mr. Quackers.  It's the first of many activities they enjoy.

Upon removing the dust jacket to reveal the book case, it's guaranteed readers will gasp.  The full moon, starry sky, night scene done in purple, black, grays and pale yellow is unexpected and wonderful.  The opening and closing endpapers in two shades of yellow showcase Mr. Quackers and Moo Moo in portraits hanging on the wall.  Continuing with the theater theme on the title page, Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers are pasting the text on paper to a marquee framed in lights.  The verso and dedication pages draw our attention to other fun they share together.

Rendered in brush and ink and digital hocus pocus the pictures vary in size from two pages, to two pictures on a single page and single page images.  Miller alternates his perspective to elevate the hilarity sky high.  The mouths on Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers coupled with their body language contribute to the laughter.  Careful readers will want to pause with every page turn to notice the details; the signage and book titles.

One of my favorite of several illustrations is for the dedication page.  It's a small image on a crisp white background.  Moo Moo is holding a roll of string attached to a kite.  Soaring in the air is a blue kite with a tail of pink ribbons.  Attached to the kite with lots of string is Mr. Quackers on his back.  His arms and feet are spread apart.

Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers present Moo Moo in a Tutu written and illustrated by Tim Miller is laughter waiting to burst forth from the pages as soon as you open the jacket and case.  The contrast in their character traits and comments not only supplies us with fun but allows us to see the strength of their friendship.  Whether read silently or shared one-on-one or with a group, get ready for loads of giggles and grins.

To discover more about Tim Miller and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website.  At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.the book trailer is premiered along with a conversation.  At YA and Kids! Book Central Tim Miller writes a guest post.  At The Children's Book Review read Inside The Studio With Tim Miller. Tim Miller talks about the process for making this book at the Nerdy Book Club.  Third grade teacher (Mr. Stands-On-Desks-And-Shouts-I-Love-Reading) Colby Sharp shares about reading this book aloud with a Best Part of My Day post. At All The Wonders, Episode #351 teacher librarian Matthew Winner chats with Tim Miller, Donna Bray and Dana Fritts about this title.

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