Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

It's Time To Learn

There are certain things we are expected to know.  These assumptions are usually based upon multiple variables, but age, lifetime experiences, and areas of expertise figure prominently.  You will learn, some earlier than others, it is impossible to know everything others believe you should.  

For a few, it is hard to admit this lack of knowledge and understanding.  In Wake Me Up in 20 Coconuts! (Christy Ottaviano Books, Little, Brown And Company, September 20, 2022) written and illustrated by Laurie Keller, the protagonist finds it impossible to confess his absence of comprehension.  In the adept hands of this creative author and illustrator, hilarity happens.

Opposite the dedication and verso page, an illustration of the four-floor apartment building where the protagonists lives in 2C, his expertise is demonstrated by seven questions asked by other residents and the intelligent answers he gives.  These conversations are shown in fourteen artfully spaced speech balloons.  Careful readers will notice the first two words of the narrative tucked into this image.


This exclamation is spoken by the resident in apartment 2B upon discovering her alarm clock is broken.  She gets the attention of the occupant in 2C.  Without even thinking when asked if he will wake the being up in 2B in 20 coconuts, he replies in the affirmative.  (The resident in 1C just happens to be eavesdropping.)

Can you imagine the anxiety of the KNOW-IT-ALL neighbor when he realizes he has absolutely no idea what 20 coconuts means?  Knowing is a generational tradition that has never been broken until this moment!  He can ask 2B what 20 coconuts means, but then he will have to reveal his lack of knowing.  Yikes, what a dilemma!

As 2C is debating what to do, he discovers a sock and a 


chicken in his ear.  (Do you see what I mean about hilarity?) Perhaps, 2C did not hear 2B correctly.  The eavesdropping occupant in 1C says it was 20 coconuts.  Pretty soon, it seems other residents are speaking, through overheard conversations, in coconut time.  How is this possible?  2C believes his brain might be busted or, at the very least, it needs a cleaning.

Does the cleaning work?  Negative.  2C's phone is no help either.  The KNOW-IT-ALL neighbor is at his wit's end.  His shouting causes a neighbor's wig and another neighbor's bucket to land on his head.  But guess what?  2B is awake on time and thanks 2C.  She is so happy she asks 2C to do it tomorrow.  

The following discussion between neighbors 2B and 2C is one of compassion and truth.  The other apartment building residents listen in silence.  Now, you might think at this point a satisfying conclusion has been reached.  It has, BUT there is a comedic twist certain to have readers and listeners laughing like loons.

Told entirely in dialogue, author Laurie Keller sets the stage for one humorous moment after another humorous moment.  When the resident in 2C is trying to figure out what 20 coconuts means, his musings range from rational to ridiculous.  By repeating the word coconut over and over within the text, we feel the frustration of 2C increase along with the merriment.  Adding the voice of the chicken several times, elevates the laughter factor.  (It's not every day you pull a sock AND a chicken out of your ear!)  Here is a passage.

Why does
coconut time
except ME?


Did I break it
when I pulled out
the SOCK?

And the CHICKEN?

As you look at the right side, front, of the open dust jacket, artist Laurie Keller has included many elements important to the story.  We see residents of the apartment building in the four corners.  The window (brain) washer, Walter, is featured as is the nosey neighbor.  2B is dozing as 2C is trying to figure out when to wake her.  Of course, there are also a lot of coconuts.  This animated colorful invitation is certain to peak readers' interest.  When you run your hands over this image you will note the title text is raised.  The title text, 2B and 2C are varnished.

To the left of the spine, on the back, 2C is chatting with Walter.  As 2C leans out his window, Walter is washing the ISBN.  Walter asks what he is washing and the KNOW-IT-ALL neighbor explains.  (I love the cleverness of this, Laurie!)

On the book case, done in pale blue/green with rows of enlarged even paler blue/green dots, to the left of the spine is the chicken, looking small.  It says 


On the front of the book case are huge letters in purple spelling


In the letter "o" of you, is 2C, looking a bit concerned.  A brain, standing on the exclamation point, is saying

Even if you say

The opening and closing endpapers are the same color as 2C, a bright blue.  On the title page, three coconuts offer commentary about what they see there.  These illustrations by Laurie Keller 

were done in acrylic markers, watercolor collage, and Photoshop.

Every page is filled with energy, the elements are ready to jump off the pages and come to life in our spaces.  Laurie Keller alternates between single page images, to two images on a single page, or large dramatic visuals spread on both sides of the gutter.  Sometimes she will have several images on a single page to show the passage of time.  

We are brought close to the action, making this pictorial interpretation of the text a personal experience.  The text is shown in speech balloons or larger than life on the pages.  The expressions on the characters' faces leave no doubt as to their emotional state at any given time.  Readers will meticulously look at every image finding comedy in the smallest details.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the above highlighted text.  2C takes up half of the left side.  His eyes are huge and his brows are up because of worry.  His hands are placed on either side of his head.  It is the classic "what do I do now" look.  At the bottom of the page, just to the right of 2C is the chicken.  All we can see is most of the head with the beak wide open.  (I'm laughing!) 

No matter how many times you read Wake Me Up In 20 Coconuts! written and illustrated by Laurie Keller, you will find yourself unable to stop grinning or laughing and nodding in agreement.  This book is an absolute delight to read aloud.  Trust me when I say, it will be a favorite by readers and listeners alike.  At the close of the book a page is dedicated to A Note from Some Brains.  They talk about it being perfectly all right to not know everything.  To them and all of us who don't know everything, finding out answers is what makes life so much fun.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Laurie Keller and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Laurie Keller has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can download a four page storytime kit.  At Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes, he hosts Instagramming an Author Visit: Laurie Keller!

Laurie Keller Presents WAKE ME UP IN 20 COCONUTS from LB School on Vimeo.

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