Quote of the Month

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Pompous Pilferer

If there is a body of water, regardless of its size, it is likely they will be there.  Their constant cawing chorus creates a discordant melody with the wind and waves.  They strut on the beaches like royalty.  They search from the air like super spies.  When they find what they desire, their speed at acquiring it is the stuff of legend.

Who are these master thieves of land and water?  Seagulls!  With much hilarity Smug Seagull (Little, Brown and Company, May 26, 2020) written and illustrated by Maddie Frost tells the tale of a bird with an abundance of cleverness about to be tested.  He discovers he does not have a corner on cunning.

Don't waste your time looking at the boring copyright stuff.

If you want to see something exciting,
watch this . . . .


With an expert swoop and grab, readers are privy to a first bird narration by this seaside food burglar.  He points out his deft techniques.  In his not-so-humble opinion he believes others agree with this assessment of himself as evidenced by a restaurant bearing his name, a beach sign about feeding seagulls and his ardent fans, sea lions.  They must be shouting praise, right?

If we are not already charmed by the seagull's characteristics, he performs a series of dance moves.  As he falls to the sand, he sees a small red crab carrying a large, crispy french fry.  It isn't easy, but he manages to filch this tempting treat from the crustacean.  Before he can boast about his success, the crab snatches it back.

The crab's abilities, and, then, disappearance under the water makes the seagull crazy.  Donning goggles and carrying a net, he dives through the waves to get the french fry back.  He is repeatedly obstructed from his endeavors, before being terrified.  Back on the sand (thankfully), the seagull decides to return to what he can do best, but something has happened.  His prowess has vanished.  He has been bested by a small red crab.

In a dramatic monologue, the seagull tries to plan his next move.  Two things transpire in quick succession, signaling a change of plans.  As the saying goes---Two savvy food foragers are more fortunate than one who flies solo.

Every available opportunity to spin this story is skillfully used by author Maddie Frost.   The comedic text begins on the dust jacket, continues on the verso and title pages, remains throughout the body of the book, and concludes on the closing endpapers.  The voice of the seagull provides a constant commentary, and precise pacing with perfect pauses for the images to extend the words.  We are happily entertained from beginning to end, laughing out loud repeatedly.  Here is a passage.

All right, listen up, Short Stuff.
Nobody, I mean NOBODY, swipes
from me!

Don't you know
who I am?
Didn't you read my sign?

Well, pal, I just so
happen to be the---

PLIP (The crab dives into the sea)

(Note:  I am working with an F & G.  My hard copy has not arrived yet.)

We meet Seagull in all his exuberant glory on the front of the dust jacket.  He is already informing us of his signature attribute with an example clasped in his wing.  The raised eyebrows on the crab is a bit of foreshadowing.  To the left, on the back, we are shown a scene from the interior of the story.  It's another hint at the craftiness of the little red crab.  Seagull is not happy at the french fry now in the claw of his challenger.  The sand and sea continue flawlessly across the spine and to each of the flap edges.  Along the spine are teeny examples of snacks seagulls love to acquire from beachgoers.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a panoramic view of the beach and the sea with the sand full of people enjoying a variety of activities.  Among them are eight seagulls being pests.  Our protagonist has flow in his amazing swipe from the left to the right with a pizza slice in his beak.  A surprised boy is chasing him.  On the closing endpapers the sun has set.  The same people have moved around a bit, shifting from daytime experiences to settling in for the evening.  Eight seagulls are there now, snacking, hiding and even lounging in a chair.  Our new pals are flying overhead.

Each of the illustrations varying in size from double-page pictures, to a group of panels framed in white on a single page (or crossing the gutter in a dramatic display), and full-page images are highly animated.  Rendered by

using scanned mixed media and Kyle T. Webster brushes in Photoshop with text set in Smug Seagull, and the display type hand-lettered

the pictures heighten the humor and the cadence of the narrative.  Sometimes Maddie Frost brings us very close to the action, and other times we get a bird's eye view.  The facial expressions, especially the eyes enrich the laughter factor.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations takes place after the little red crab steals the french fry back from the seagull.  It is a vertical underwater scene on a little less than one-half of a page.  It is framed in white with rounded edges.  Seagull is wearing a set of purple goggles and carrying a darker teal net.  He is looking disgustedly to the right.  The little red crab is hanging on to the french fry in one claw and gripping a fishing line with the other claw.  He is surrounded and protected by five lavender smiling, and zapping jellyfish.  Clearly the crab has the upper claw.

This book, Smug Seagull written and illustrated by Maddie Frost is burst-out-laughing funny.  In this title there is a stellar blend of words and visuals.  It is a perfect choice for a summer, vacation, beach, humorous, or a bird-themed storytime.  It is one of those titles which will be requested for a reread again and again.  I know you'll have to have a copy for your personal and professional collections. (I have one on its way for mine.)

To learn more about Maddie Frost and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Maddie Frost has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

Enjoy this addition video about Maddie Frost and Smug Seagull.

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