Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, June 6, 2019


If you've ever read a book aloud requiring audience participation, you know they are a huge hit with the storytime crowd.  When you are asked to do or say something by the characters or the narrator, it heightens the feeling of being a part of the tale.  Soon listeners will be eagerly calling out their ideas and leaning in, even closer than normal, to see the results of fulfilled requests.

If you've never read a book aloud requiring audience participation, don't hesitate any longer.  You and your listeners will enjoy the entreaties and humor found in Abner & Ian Get Right-Side Up (Little, Brown and Company, May 14, 2019) written by Dave Eggers with art by Laura Park.  The commentary by the unfortunate duo will have you laughing out loud.


The duck, Abner, quickly points out their position on their respective pages.  Instead of standing on the ground, they are sticking out from the left and right sides.  They are hanging sideways. Ian, a prairie dog, is sure his companion will have an idea. Abner does not know how to fix this.  He suggests they ask

that kid

to assist them.

Even though Ian thinks the kid smells a little funky, Abner asks him to shake the book and then turn the page.  He's confident this will work based on previous practices.  Amazingly Ian agrees.   Next a first-class dilemma ensues.  The friends converse back and forth about who will signal the reader to shake the book.  When Abner concedes, Ian keeps saying anything but the appropriate word.  He prolongs their situation longer by wondering if the child is ready to participate.  Finally, Ian yells


Much to their dismay, they are currently hanging from the top of the page.  Ian is revealing personal traits which Abner initially finds intriguing.  This does nothing to solve their problem.  Abner issues new instructions to the kid hoping to end this state of affairs.  The outcome is shocking for them and for readers.

Abner is not sure the kid can accomplish what is needed.  Ian wants him to try once more.  Just when you think it can't get stranger, it does.  The kid is asked yet again to shake the book like a wild child.  The effect is weirder.  Now Abner is sure this is being done intentionally.  Ian disagrees.

Shaking and turning and shaking and turning continue until Ian calls a halt.  Despite Abner's frustration, Ian has an idea.  If it works, it will be a miracle.  Do you believe in miracles? 

Told entirely in dialogue author Dave Eggers has designed the story like a comedy routine.  The personalities of Abner and Ian shine in their attitudes at their predicament.  One is ready for action with a let's-get-this-show-on-the-road mindset, the other is more contemplative with an optimistic and calm outlook.  This contrast elevates the hilarity.  Here is a passage.

The kid said yes.  Are you satisfied?

I am.  I think reassurances like
that are so helpful to the smooth
functioning of systems, and
greatly increase the probability of
success in an endeavor like this. 

Drawn with pencil and colored with a computer by Laura Park all the illustrations accentuate the discussions and consequences with utmost wit.  When we are introduced to the twosome on the front of the book case (I am working with an F & G.) we notice immediately something is amiss.  Abner and Ian are both wondering what is wrong.  (On the back is information you are likely to find on the front and back flaps of a dust jacket.)

A page turn reveals a stage with curtains on the sides and along the top.  A silhouette of a home and tree is seen in the background.  This scene is expanded with the first page turn.  It is in each illustration.  It does not change (usually); only Abner and Ian do.

 What raises the humor is the clothing worn by the characters, their facial expressions and body postures.  Their hands are very expressive.  Ian expresses his confidence in the kid with thumbs up.  Every time they move, Abner's scarf points toward the ground.  Abner's and Ian's colors appear to remain the same but the background shifts to a variety of solid shades to heighten interest and provide pacing.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for a shocking plight after one of the kid's shakes.  The ground stretches left to right as usual; the house and tree on the left and a small mound on the right.  Abner and Ian are not sticking out on the left and right sides.  They are not hanging from the top of the page.  We can only see a portion of their bodies.  (And that's all I'm going to say.)

You will find yourself smiling, grinning and giggling over and over again, no matter how many times you read Abner & Ian Get Right-Side Up written by Dave Eggers with art by Laura Park.  Trust me when I say you will be reading this more than once per sitting.  This is storytime gold.  You might want to have more than one copy for your professional collections and certainly a copy of your own for home.

To learn more about Dave Eggers and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Laura Park has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

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