Friendships forged on summer vacations can last a lifetime or be as fleeting as the days of the holiday. These relationships sometimes take on an unbelievable quality; as if we are living in a world removed from our normal day to day existence. If we are fortunate to return to the same place every year, we long for the same people who made the experience magical to be there again.
Not only do we want to recreate our adventures with them, we are excited to see what new escapades will be enjoyed. Waiting for Chicken Smith (Candlewick Press, May 14, 2019) written and illustrated by David Mackintosh is the story of a remarkable summer. Memories will be made to treasure for a lifetime.
I'm waiting for Chicken Smith.
He won't be long now.
The narrator explains that he and his family stay at the same cabin on the beach every summer. So does Chicken Smith, his dog Jelly, and his father. These two know this beach better than anyone else.
As he is waiting for Chicken Smith to arrive, the boy's sister calls for him to look at something important. He does not. He is waiting for Chicken Smith.
He tells us about all the things he remembers about Chicken Smith. Every single thing is the same every year. Chicken Smith has written his initials somewhere. He has challenged the boy to find them. The boy's sister calls again and again. She has to wait because he is waiting for Chicken Smith.
One of the things Chicken Smith and the boy like to do is look for whales from the lighthouse. They stay outside until dark hoping and watching. As we learn more about Chicken Smith, we also learn more about whales and shells. He has a shell as a gift for Chicken Smith. It's not as exciting as a whale but you can hear the ocean inside it.
As he waits for Chicken Smith, he begins to notice differences. Then his sister calls to him and tells him to run. He runs after her. Brother and sister share a first-time wonder until the sky darkens. This summer is not the same as the other summers. It's possibly better.
Using the boy as the narrator creates an instant and personal connection with readers. David Mackintosh uses short conversational sentences with word repetition to supply us with a storytelling rhythm. We, like the boy, enjoy remembering all the things that make Chicken Smith's friendship unique, but our curiosity is growing whenever the sister speaks. A gentle tension increases each time she calls to him. This prepares us for something extraordinary. It also leads to contemplation and an examination of companionship by the boy. Here is a passage.
bike is rusty,
to slow down.
On the front of the dust jacket the boy is waiting patiently for Chicken Smith on a sunny summer day. He is placed on an enlarged version of the shell he got for Chicken Smith as a gift. The blue on the front extends over the spine. To the left, on the back, the blue is replaced with white. Washes of very light blue with darker clouds in blue and gray provide a background. Two black sea birds fly to the right. On a black lifeguard station, just left of the center, sits the sister. Next to her at the top is a seagull.
The front of the book case is identical to the front of the jacket except the sun is gone. It has moved to the back of the book case and is much larger. Three sea grasses from the bottom frame words inside the sun. They are:
I'm waiting for
He should be
On the opening and closing endpapers tiny white and blue fish swim, right to left, on a turquoise canvas. All the illustrations rendered in pen, pencil, ink, watercolor, and kraft paper are distinctive in the use of a limited palette and line work. There is a contrast between the very delicate lines and the bold opaque colors. Readers will be drawn to all the details in each image. David Mackintosh uses white space with marvelous skill.
Some of the pictures are double-page, others are full-page visuals. Readers will be pleasantly surprised at the shifts in point of view. Not only do the words of the narrator make us feel like we are there, but the illustrations recall with stunning clarity a vacation on the beach.
One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages. It is a close-up of Chicken Smith's bike. On a white background large gray areas supply a texture similar to stonework. The front of the bike is facing left. We see portions of the wheels and most of the frame and seat. Property of Chicken Smith is written on the frame, black letters on white strips. Part of the text is to the left and right of the bike. Other portions of the text are written on the wheels.
Certain to recall summer vacation friendships and promote discussions about expectations and surprises, Waiting for Chicken Smith written and illustrated by David Mackintosh is a book with timeless appeal. Sometimes when we are waiting for one thing, something unexpected and amazing takes our breath away. Whether we initially realize it or not, our siblings can be our best friends. I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about David Mackintosh and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. David Mackintosh has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website and at Penguin Random House, you can view interior images. Enjoy the book trailer.