Quote of the Month

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Something Is Brewing

We have had stormy weather headed our way for the past several evenings.  Even before the sky sent us gray-cloud messages, the signs were there.  Parents, educators and humans with canine companions are keenly aware of the advance notice children and dogs give us. Their behavior is downright squirrely.  When you combine this with the full moon tonight, any semblance of normal is blown away. 

Trying to navigate through tempestuous personalities indoors and rain, thunder, lightning and gusts of wind outdoors is like walking through a briar patch.  What makes this situation bearable are children's books elevating the mood.  None do this better than Mother Goose BruceHotel BruceBruce's Big MoveSanta Claus Bruce and now Bruce's Big Storm (Disney Hyperion, September 3, 2019) written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins.  Trust me when I say, you'll be chuckling as soon as you see the dust jacket.

Bruce was a bear who did not like neighbors.

This bear's personality could not handle noise, being bothered a little bit or a lot or having his neighborhood populated.  Usually Bruce's neighbors did not hang around more than he could tolerate . . . barely.  This all changed on one eventful day.  A humdinger of a storm was approaching.  The first neighbors to arrive and ask for shelter were the deer.

Bruce wanted to be alone, but his mice housemates were more than happy to have company.  When the storm struck in earnest, animals of all kinds (stinky skunks and prickly porcupines) blew inside his home.  Before long, all the residents of Soggy Hollow were sequestered in Bruce's house.  He sat grumpily reading in his favorite chair.

Stop!  Someone was still outside in the wind and rain. Nibbs, one of the mice, headed toward the open door with an umbrella to save the tiny white rabbit.  Unfortunately, the wind opened the umbrella and he parachuted up, up and up until the umbrella landed point down in front of the rabbit.  Within moments one mouse and one tiny white rabbit were soaring upward.

Fortunately, Bruce hurried outside.  Nibbs thinks Bruce was saving them.  Bruce just wanted his best umbrella back but unfortunately (again), the wind was stronger than one mouse, one tiny white rabbit and one big cranky bear.  Will this trio be rescued?  Will the storm drop one final blow on the gathered group?  Will Bruce ever have peace and quiet?  Stay tuned readers and be ready for the last laugh.

Only someone with an inherently great sense of humor can write with meticulous pacing, precise word choices and the delivery of dialogue which further exaggerates the hilarity.  Ryan T. Higgins is one of those people.  With the turn of each page we find one comical moment after the other.  The contrast in attitude and outlook between Bruce and every other resident in Soggy Hollow is like morning and night.  Ryan T. Higgins portrays Bruce with precise authenticity which in turn invites us into the pure mirth of Bruce and company.  Here is a passage.

Finally, the whole 
neighborhood was there.

"Wait!" said Rupert.
"Someone is still outside!"

Everyone went to
the window to look.

A speech bubble over Bruce's head, as he sits in his chair and tries to read, is filled with grumble lines.

Well, almost everyone.

When you look at the front of the dust jacket, one of several things draws your attention.  The look on Bruce's face is one of shock, as is Rupert's expression but the tiny white rabbit is looking calmer and more determined.  You are also aware of the strength of the storm from the bending trees and mailbox post, swirl of leaves and slanting rain.  It's mighty.  The title text and Ryan T. Higgins' name are varnished.

To the left, on the back, you're likely to have one of many outbursts of laughter.  In a loose white oval is the plaid sofa in Bruce's house.  All the neighbors are curled up around each other on the sofa, along the bottom of the sofa, and on top of the sofa.  Bruce, squeezed into the right corner, facing us, is grumpier than ever.  He is the only one not sound asleep.  This image is varnished.

There is a treat for readers on the book case.  Opening it up reveals a map of Soggy Hollow.  Residents' abodes on land, near and on ponds and in trees are carefully drawn and labeled.  Some of the names are charming alliterations.

On the opening and closing endpapers, more hilarity ensues.  It is a display of the Soggy Hollow Community Board.  An assortment of announcement and advertisements cover the board from end to end.  While most of the postings like the 5K Turtle Run and Leech Pond Swim Lessons remain the same on both sets of endpapers, careful readers will notice a change on the second set.


illustrations were created using scans of treated clayboard for textures, graphite, ink, and 

Ryan T. Higgins begins the pictorial extension of his text with cheerful neighbors on the verso and first page greeting a scowling Bruce as he walks toward his home carrying a newspaper and a cup of coffee.  Each full color picture within this book are grouped as small vignettes, featured as a full-page image, edge to edge, placed on a white background leaving space for text, or spanned across two pages for dramatic effect.  The faces and body postures are expertly depicted.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a smaller one with two others in the group.  The storm is blowing neighbors into Bruce's house.  Along the bottom of the page with a white canvas on matte-finished paper, Bruce's door has blown open.  Leaves are blowing inside the open door.  Another being blew in also--a porcupine which is sticking to Bruce's fur.  Next to them is a skunk, fumes rising in the air and startled by the newest neighbor's appearance.

There are books like Bruce's Big Storm written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins which create shared experiences based on laughter.  These are the moments we need in our lives; these moments of fun and funniness which strengthen our endearment for beloved characters and for each other.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Ryan T. Higgins and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Ryan T. Higgins has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can download activity sheets.

No comments:

Post a Comment