Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Best Laid Plans

We've all experienced Murphy's Law moments or even an entire day.  We think we know exactly what we are doing and when we are doing it but then life puts first one twist, another twist and even a third twist in what we believed was a straight path.  As we are trying our best to navigate these new curves, opportunities for greatness are revealed.  Our true character has a chance to affect change.

In February of 2016 readers young at heart were introduced to the trio known as the Furry Fiends brought to life by Victoria Jamieson in The Great Pet Escape (Pets On The Loose) (Henry Holt and Company).  George Washington, aka GW, a hamster in a second grade classroom, Sunflower, a guinea pig, residing among kindergarten students and Barry, a bunny, pet to a group of first graders, continually find a way to enjoy a variety of pursuits after hours.  The trio of pals has returned in The Great Art Caper (Pets On The Loose) (Henry Holt and Company, June 13, 2017).  Their plans go awry when their arch nemesis and her cohorts promote trouble, big trouble.

Ever since the Great Food Fight Fiasco, life at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School has been surprisingly...


For each day of the week the Furry Fiends meet in the kindergarten room in the evenings holding Poetry Slams, Sweatin' to the Oldies, Puzzle Pals, Scrabble Dabble Doo and Knit Wits.  During a Thursday night game GW unwittingly reveals his sincere affection for one of the second grade students, Carina.  He tells his friends he would like to make Carina a gift because of her entry in The Juried Art Show the following evening.

None of their first floor classrooms have the snazzy things needed to make a truly amazing gift.  They decide to venture to the second floor despite the possible meeting with Harriet, an evil mouse, her Minions, more mice than you can count and Lucinda, a constantly hungry snake.  Normally getting to the second floor can be tricky but never fear, GW has one of his inventions, "Stair Getter Upper."

When they arrive at the room with art materials galore, they are so engrossed in their projects, they barely have time to scamper to the supply closet before Harriet, The Minions and Lucinda enter. While in hiding they overhear an evil plot, The Great Art Show Caper.  It would mean the destruction of students' work and the removal of GW from his classroom.  YIKES!

A capture, an escape, a plan of daytime daring-do, a trap, another scheme, and a choice place our Furry Fiends in one predicament after another.  A bucket of plaster of Paris, puzzle skills and glue all play a part in the hold-your-breath-I-can't-look conclusion.  The art of friendship has never been better.

When the three companions or the other characters are not engaged in conversation, Victoria Jamieson has GW continue the story as the narrator.  Besides guiding the plot these conversations supply readers with in-depth knowledge of the various personalities. Each of the eleven chapters ends with a sentence which urges you to keep going.  These Furry Fiends simply don't rest and you won't want to either.

Throughout the story a current of humor runs strong.  You will find yourself smiling or chuckling out loud more than once.  Here is a sample passage from a series of panels.

Harriet's left us alone recently.
Maybe she's turned nice.

Get real, Barry.

She was awfully angry 
after her Lunchtime
Surprise scheme failed.  I
don't like going so close
to her classroom---it's
too dangerous.  Forget I
mentioned it. 

But what about the glitter?  And the
pom-poms?  And the...tissue paper?

And what about my present for Carina?
We've faced dangerous situations before.
Isn't it worth taking a little risk to do
something nice for a friend?

Okay, okay.  But it won't be easy.  For one thing, we have
to figure out a way to get up those stairs.

Don't worry about that.  Bring your helmets
and meet me by the stairs in ten minutes!

If Harriet is scowling, as shown on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, you know GW is confident about his latest idea to thwart the nasty mouse.  Sunflower is not quite so sure but Barry the bunny is ever the optimist.  What we don't know is why they are making a mess with art supplies, but we can't wait to find out.

To the left, on the back, reading like a top secret school record, GW, Sunflower, Barry and Harriet are listed with their pictures on the left and essential information, name, legal name, species, occupation, crimes and for Harriet, her accomplices, is shown on the right.  The opening and closing endpapers are a bright sky blue.  On the title page an artist's canvas has pictures of the Furry Fiends but Harriet has left her additions scribbled on it with the words Harriet Wuz Here.

Each of the panels on each page is edged in a fine, loose, black line.  Between the panels is a small amount of white space. Sometimes an image will have a character speaking without being framed at all.  The details, edible crayons in the kindergarten room, the helmets worn by the trio, GW's ingenious gadgets, Lucinda's changing body shape and Sunflower's creative knitting will have readers grinning from ear to ear.  The facial expressions certainly convey moods but they extend the humor and excitement a great deal.

One of my many favorite illustrations is wordless and covers an entire page.  GW and Sunflower are parachuting by holding pieces of fabric from the second floor to the outside of the school.  Barry waits for his turn.  They are all carrying a little something extra which is part of a unique plan.  GW has shouted Gooooooooooooo.  The students are unaware of what is happening above them.  This scene captures the sense of adventure in which these friends greet each day.

This graphic novel, The Great Art Caper (Pets On The Loose) written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, is so good as soon as you finish it, you'll open the cover and read it again.  You don't want to leave the characters, especially GW, Sunflower and Barry.  They are three separate, distinctive classroom pets, but there is no doubt of their loyalty to each other.  This book, like the first one, works splendidly due to the teamwork displayed by the trio.  I highly recommend it for your professional and personal bookshelves.  I will include it in my Halloween giveaway this year along with book one.

To learn more about Victoria Jamieson and her other work please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At the publisher's website you can view the first eight pages.  If you are introducing Victoria Jamieson for the first time to your students or children, you might want to reference the first post.  I included her Newbery Honor Award thank you video.

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