I’m still in the Halloween spirit and want to share the art work from one of my favorite new picture books for very young children at this time of year, Where’s My Mummy? (Candlewick, July ’08) by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by John Manders. I’ll tell you why I like Manders — but quickly, since I think I convinced him to do an interview here at a later date. There are a lot of illustrators today whose style is primarily humorous, cartoon-esque. But John is one of my favorites in that vein. He can create truly funny, child-accessible art—knowing just where to add the right details that will get a preschooler…well, giggling—and his work is fresh, brisk, and interesting (without being too cutesy), conveying that Chuck-Jones sensibility somethin’ fierce. (And I still say that The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, illustrated by John, was one of the funniest picture books from last year. ¡Caramba! Sacré bleu! Great balls of fire! and all that!)
So, yes, we’re taking a moment to appreciate some Manders-art today. Here’s the book’s opening spread, and opening the post up there is Bones, “brushing his clicky-clack teeth.”
That’s Little Baby Mummy there, and he goes off to play Hide and Shriek a bit too quickly. Eventually, he loses his Big Mama Mummy, and—while trying to find her—he meets a whole host of creatures of the night from Bones up there to Glob (“Glug glug glip”) to Drac (“Flap flip flap”). Fear not for your preschoolers; John knows just how to softly round out our eerie night creatures (indeed, Kirkus refers to Little Baby Mummy himself as the “appealingly round mummy child”) and add just the right details–from facial expressions to clothing (Drac is all decked out in his bat PJs and slippers)—to get the youngest of children laughing. Little Baby Mummy is not the slightest bit frightened by these spooky, gooey characters: “You’re not my mummy!” he tells them, with hands on hips. But then one final creature of the night, not what you’d expect him to be, does send Little Baby Mummy running. And it’s a choice that will have preschoolers intrigued and feeling superior and, most likely, laughing out loud. Crimi writes with a pleasing repetition, and John’s gouache paintings ramp up the action with reassurance and humor. School Library Journal calls it “a reassuring offering for youngsters who want just a touch of the shivers.” It’s a fun title, this one. Grab your favorite wee’est child and share it with him or her.
And enjoy the brief John-Manders feature here. Perhaps I’ll be able to deliver an interview later so that we can find out what he’s up to next. Until then . . .
WHERE’S MY MUMMY? Text copyright © 2008 Carolyn Crimi. Illustrations copyright © 2008 John Manders. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.