Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pondering Politeness

When a total stranger offers you a polite greeting there are many ways to respond.  First and foremost is to take into account your surroundings and the time of day.  If it's any given hour during the morning, afternoon or early evening in a place filled with people you can return the greeting, nod, wave or smile.  All those actions are acceptable.

Unless you are unable to talk or understand the language, to do nothing might be considered rude. (Friendly people sometimes forget you might be shy.)  Perhaps there is another reason altogether as to your lack of speech.  Plankton Is Pushy (Scholastic Press, April 25, 2017), a companion title to Barnacle Is Bored (Scholastic Press, May 10, 2016), written and illustrated by Jonathan Fenske is a classic episode in the outgoing versus the reticent.

Why, hello,
Mister Mussel! 

Cheerfully, Plankton is out for a swim in the sea when he encounters Mussel, who looks rather grumpy.  He calmly waits for a response to his greeting.  When Mussel continues to rest on the sand in silence, Plankton repeats his words louder, perhaps thinking Mussel suffers some sort of hearing impairment.

Mussel just sits there wearing the same expression and expelling bursts of bubbles.  Plankton believes Mussel is in need of instructions in etiquette.  He proceeds to perform a scenario in which Mussel replies, giving him possible examples.  He then cheerfully, but with a bit of an instructive attitude, starts over.  You can almost feel Plankton's frustration increase when Mussel does absolutely nothing.

Trying another tactic Plankton speaks more slowly.  The results are identical.  Mussel does utter a sound.  Plankton moves from rage to pleading.

That's when a miracle seems to occur.  Plankton is overjoyed.  Several moments later not one, not two but three surprises are certain to have readers grinning from ear to ear.

As soon as we see Plankton, before he even utters a word, we know he is an upbeat kind of sea creature as he moves along whistling.  In this way Jonathan Fenske introduces us to his personality.  His happy-go-lucky temperament makes it impossible for him to pass Mister Mussel without speaking.

In the timeless tradition of the third-time-is-the-charm he attempts to convert Mussel to displaying similar cheerfulness.  This increases the tension building to the unforeseen consequences and heightening the comedy.  By having Plankton relate the narrative through his first person dialogue we are more intimately involved in the discourse and of course, better able to enjoy the hilarity when it happens.  Here is a sample passage.

So let's say we give this another whirl, okay?




The opened book case gives readers a very good idea of the state of the relationship between Plankton and Mister Mussel.  The facial features on both of the characters set the scene for a less than amiable meeting.  Plankton is in full lecture mode.  On the back, to the left, a larger version of Plankton is peeking from the spine on the right, hands to his body in disgust.  The bubbles we see on the front are replicated on the back around information about Jonathan Fenske.  Above this a short blurb ends with a question about the book.

Barnacle makes an appearance on the opening endpapers as Plankton approaches a grouchy Mister Mussel.  Making use of every bit of space, the closing endpapers announce a startling finale as we zoom in on the two main characters.  The color palette throughout of purples, gray, pinks, black, white, sand, sea blue and sea green and rage red work wonderfully with the text.

Jonathan Fenske conveys the mood and emotions of the story marvelously through body postures and facial expressions.  Plankton's eyes, eyebrows "hands" and feelers leave no doubt as to his exact state of mind.  This contrasts very well with the same stoic look on Mussel's face leading us (and Plankton) to the ultimate conclusion.  Fenske alternates the visual sizes from two page, to half page and then to single page, all of them edge to edge to supply pacing.

One of my favorite of several illustrations is one of the half-page pictures.  Plankton is giving Mussel a lesson in politeness.  He is telling him to say "Hello" in reply to his "Hello".  He has a sort of sarcastic look on his face as his "hands" form a mouth moving to say "Hello".  Who knew plankton could have so much pizzazz?

You know from your first glance at the book case, you are going to be smiling when you read this book.  Plankton Is Pushy written and illustrated by Jonathan Fenske is a lesson in politeness and in knowing when enough is enough.  The surprises are sure to prompt discussions.  Reading this aloud is wonderful.  It's been student tested with shared laughter as an outcome.

To discover more about Jonathan Fenske and his other work please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  You will enjoy scrolling through his illustrations.  If you go to Scholastic's Instagram account you can click on the book cover and swipe through the first few pages.

No comments:

Post a Comment