Quote of the Month

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

Friday, August 26, 2022

What R We Going To Do?

Over the years most of us will enjoy sharing our lives with a pet.  Their companionship is invaluable, even though most of them cannot speak our language.  In fact some of the most peculiar pets are not even alive.  In 1975, Gary Dahl subsequently became a millionaire with his introduction and invention of the Pet Rock.  Cleverly packaged with instructions, it was an instant phenomenon.  In the early 1980s another kind of pet, this one a living plant, skyrocketed to fame.  Chia Pets are still being produced today thanks to Joe Pedott and his company.

Regardless of the kind of pet in your life, you probably would be as shocked as the protagonist in this story when she wakes one morning.  My Pet Feet (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, August 23, 2022) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by debut picture artist Billy Yong is an alphabetical quest.  Through a laugh-out-loud narrative with equally funny images, we journey to right a wrong realizing we need the total twenty-six member team.

Today I woke up and was about 
to feed my pet when---

"What happened to my pet feet?
I mean my pet feet.  Why can't I say 'FEET'?"

It seems that Doodles, this child's pet ferret has become her pet feet.  Pet feet?!  Scanning her room for possible answers, she notices the letter r is missing from her alphabet mural.  Running to her friend Lucas for help, this girl is in for another series of surprises.

The world minus the letter r has turned into mayhem.  Lucas is no longer her friend but a fiend.  She and Doodles run from a flock of cows (crows) seeking shelter at the doo (door) of the town hall, but they obviously cannot get inside.  In desperation, the girl and Doodles climb to the top of a cane (crane) beside the structure.

From this vantage point, she ponders this problem.  What has happened to all the eighteenth symbols of the alphabet?  In her frustration, she declares she does not want pet feet forever.  At Doodles' hurt expression, she hurries to apologize, but Doodles runs away.  She tries to catch him.  She tries to find him.  Doodles is nowhere to be found.  

Determined not to give up, she finally discovers him at a sandy beach.  Across and on the water, they spy a pirate ship.  Oh, yes my friends, a pirate ship.  Boarding the vessel after a swim, guess what they discover? Quickly, one letter r and a second letter r are given to Doodles.  Back home, everything is normal, or is it? Bedtime supplies the duo with another startling stumper.  

Stellar wordsmith Josh Funk presents readers with an instant dilemma.  It's not every day you wake up to find your pet ferret has been reduced to feet.  With a combination of first person narrative and dialogue, we traverse this mystery with the girl and Doodles.  The tension is heightened when it is apparent no one else notices this travesty except the girl and her furry friend.  Alliteration contributes to the fast-paced cadence.  Here is a passage.

"Come back!" I shouted.

I chased Doodles past a fog and toad,

by the old babbling book, down a tail,

and into a gassy field.

Digitally rendered, the illustrations by Billy Yong are as highly animated throughout the book as we see on the dust jacket.  (I am working with an F & G.)  The bright, light blue canvas spans the entire jacket.  By the wide-eyed expressions on the girl and her ferret we know, even before opening the book, disaster has struck.  To the left of the spine, within a circle we see the girl hugging her beloved pet, her whole pet.  There is a vivid green border around this image.  The first sign of this illustrator's cleverness and attention to detail are four bees buzzing in the lower, right-hand corner just to the left of the spine.  One of the bee's wings covers the letter r in Schuster.

The opening endpapers in a midnight blue feature drawings in a light blue.  They are elements created by the missing letter r.  On the closing endpapers, in a dark rust, the drawings in light brown showcase items after the letter r has been restored.

Billy Yong makes use of every single space to tell his pictorial story.  The double-page picture for the title page is a scene of the child's home with large palm trees to the left.  In one of the windows, she is waking up, stretching her arms, and yawning.  The top of the home's two windows are decorated with the likeness of the top of a ferret's head.  On the first two-page visual we get another hit of the conclusion to the story as we look outside from inside the girl's bedroom.

The images' sizes shift from double-page pictures to single-page illustrations and then to a series of smaller visuals to indicate a thought process.  Readers will enjoy the two-page vertical image when the climb is made to the top of the crane.  White space is used to excellent effect.  Careful readers will notice humorous details.  (I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized what was dragging a bagel across the street.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is the second two-page picture.  This is when the girl first steps outside her home.  On the street winding past her home and through the neighborhood, kids are racing by on go-cats.  These vehicles are pure fun.  The one on the left is close to readers.  The child in the driver's seat is having their best day ever.  Across the street on the right is a park.  Here a policewoman is barely holding onto a wild hose.  Water, in jet mode, shoots out the end as the hose twists and turns.

Author Josh Funk and artist Billy Yong have taken "what if" to hilarious new heights in My Pet Feet.  Certain to generate laughter in readers and listeners as well as promote discussions about the importance of letters, words, and language, this title is a welcome addition to the picture book realm.  You will want to have a copy for your professional collections as well as a spot on your personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Josh Funk and Billy Yong and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Josh Funk has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTwitter, and YouTubeBilly Yong has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TwitterJosh Funk was a guest blogger at Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) earlier this year.  Billy Yong was interviewed several years ago at Character Design References.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images including the entire dust jacket.

Be sure to visit other stops on the virtual tour for this title.  You never know what you will learn.

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