Some Cartoons For You

h1 June 2nd, 2009 by jules

I don’t know about you, but the news this week — both from my little sphere of friends and the world-at-large — is bringing me down. Reminding me that life is, simply and fundamentally, un-flippin’-fair. (How about that infixing there?) I thought, for that reason, I’d shine a spotlight today on some light-hearted cartoon-esque picture book titles. Wait. There is no “esque” about it. These are illustrators working very much in a cartoon style. Perhaps they will contribute a laugh to your day. They certainly try, and they certainly did so for me.

We begin with Mr. Warburton—that’s Tom if you’re in-the-know or if you read the fine print on the copyright page—who brings us the tale of a defiant toddler in 1000 Times No (which, if you’re the parent of—or otherwise tight with—a young child, might bring the title song of this great CD to mind, as it does for me). Ever spent a day of negation with a two-year-old? Just look at that opening illustration. Yup, after his mom tells him,

(“Noah.” Get it?) Right. Anyway, he responds with almost forty different variants on the word “no”—from Mandarin Chinese (“Bu”) to Inuit (“Naaga”) to Etruscan (“Ein”)—with some texting, alphabet blocks, Pig Latin, Robot (“negative”), tin cans connected by a string, Cowboy (“Noooooope”), a vanity Big Wheel plate, Morse code, hieroglyphics, and a simple head shake thrown in for fun. As Betsy Bird put it in her review of this title last month, Warburton “has tapped into that very human moment {of childhood}. The point in our lives when we are able to tell the universe that whatever it has in store for us is unacceptable. No. No. One thousand times no.”

This is Warburton’s debut picture book, released in April by HarperCollins (Laura Geringer Books). Previously, Tom has worked in animation—as the creator of Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door—as well as worked as a director and designer for other shows and commercials. This is why I open this rather impromptu ode-to-contemporary-cartoonists post with him and the stubborn toddler: Warburton is obviously all about cartoon, even the animated kind. In 1000 Times No, he treats us to lots of color, thick black lines, simple text, and a lot of comforting round-ness. As Fuse points out, he even goes old-skool cartoony on us on us with a simple, thick, black exclamation mark over the toddler’s head at one point — during his moment of epiphany in the tale, in fact. Or, as Fuse put it, “if it’s good enough for Blondie it’s good enough for us.”

Unless you can nail your accents, this (plus the book’s scant dramatic action) makes for a difficult story-time read-aloud. (Having said that, if you can pronounce your Mongolian, Russian, Tagalog, Zulu, and Wagiman “no”s with confidence and ease, you’re gonna have a preschool story-time group rolling on the floor laughing.) But it’s a hoot of a lap-read with your favorite wee child. It’s light. It’s funny. Even enlightening. (Hey, I didn’t know how the Dutch negated something—or how to pronounce it—until now.) Good times.

* * * * * * *

This is Peter. His tale—good “manic” cartoon fun,” in the words of Publishers Weekly, even rendered in occasional comic-strip-type panels—is told in Love That Puppy: The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to Be a Dog, written and illustrated by Jeff Jarka, and released by Henry Holt at the end of last month.

Once upon a time, Peter here was an ordinary boy, but suddenly he’s struck with the urge to be a canine. He is pleased, as you can tell, with his decision, even if his parents are a bit freaked out. (In one clever spread, the mother is nervously reading a book entitled Your Child, while daddums is reading Your Dog.)

He’s really quite good at it, though: “He knew how to sit up. And he knew how to beg”:

And so his dog life continues. But, after his mother scolds him for yet one more dog-related disaster, telling him that she wants him to stop being a dog, Peter decides to call it quits and become an “ordinary boy” again. He’s saddened (see left) by his parents’ frustrations over his life-as-a-dog, but he’s certainly not left without inspiration for a new incarnation, as we see on the book’s final page. (Jarka nails his delivery and comic timing here.)

Now, we could try to interpret some deeper meaning here — a parent’s suffocation of a child’s wish fulfillment perhaps. Well, have at it, but I think this book works on one very simple level: Its delightful absurdity. Plus: Silly, flat-out goofy (and very broad) humor. Young kids will hoot and holler over Peter’s romps as a dog and, particularly, his defiance of his parents — and the mailman, of course. (Actually, it’s his mother he frustrates the most, while doing things like fetching the newspaper for ol’ dad, but we’ll just avoid working any meaning into that.) Let’s not forget his frustrations at school in the joke featured here at Jeff’s blog.

More good times. And I had even more titles for this post, but I’ll just have to continue another time. Until then…and here’s hoping these brought you a laugh or two.

* * * * * * *

1000 TIMES NO © 2009 Tom Warburton. Published by Laura Geringer Books (an imprint of HarperCollins), New York. Images used with permission of illustrator. All rights reserved.

LOVE THAT PUPPY © 2009 Jeff Jarka. Published by Henry Holt and Company, New York. Images used with permission of publisher. All rights reserved.

7 comments to “Some Cartoons For You”

  1. Fun post!

  2. What a great pick-me-up!! Thanks for the smile and fun art :).

  3. […] today’s post, “Some Cartoons for You,” just made me grin from ear to ear. (It might even have made the grin wrap around to the […]

  4. Great artwork and the style makes an indelible impact on your medula oblongata! Please post more samples! Keep em’ comin’!

  5. I start singing the song every. single. time I see this title.

    No is no.
    No is always no.
    When they say no it means 1000 times no.

    Do you think Mr. Warburton meant for this to happen?

  6. Loved that we both had the Mr. Warburton book up today. I suppose we both needed something light today.

  7. Thanks for the kind words!

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