Well, I’ve finally finished posting about 2010 titles, for the most part. I might sneak in an interview here or there some time soon with folks who published picture books in 2010, but it’s time to look at what’s being released this year. And I’m happy to show some spreads this morning from a brand-new 2011 title that I find so winning on every possible level, not to mention a book that made me and my wee girls laugh so hard we nearly split our collective pants. Okay, that simply doesn’t sound right, but I’m typing this post late-ish on Friday night, so forgive the nonsense that stems from my fatigue. “Collective pants” is kinda funny to think about, though. Admit it.
I Must Have Bobo!, written by Eileen Rosenthal (her picture book debut) and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (Atheneum, January 2011), is the story of a straight up showdown between one young boy, Willy, and the family cat, the dilemma being that the object of their affection is one beloved sock monkey, named Bobo. Bobo, however, can only be with one creature at a time. Uh-oh. (If I could play the main theme song from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly right now, I would.)
On the very first spread, we’re introduced to the dilemma right off the bat, no foolin’ around: “When Willy woke up, there was trouble. Oh no! Where’s Bobo?” Poor child is looking under his bed; alas, no sock monkey. After he declares with great urgency that he NEEDS Bobo, the author and illustrator proceed to show us why on the three subsequent pages. Bobo only helps this child with EVERYthing: his fear of bugs, his fear of steep slides, “that big dog” ’round the corner…you get the idea. He simply must have Bobo.
(Don’t you love how there are three thought bubbles above his head, and the first thought in his mind—the one about bitey bugs—is encapsulated in the first bubble? The other two, of course, are enclosed in the same white circles. I love that little detail.)
This, mind you, is all laid out with very funny and quite subtle details and expression. Marc Rosenthal nails the emotions of a young child. It’s remarkable how much fear or apprehension he can convey in Willy, simply with the lines that constitute his eyebrows. The Rosenthals also put to use a lot of understatement, which is just flat-out funny. (“Do you think he sees us?” Willy asks Bobo, as they walk past “that big dog.” The dog, you see, has his head hanging over a fence and is staring straight at the duo.)
So, back to poor Willy: What we come to understand is that his cat, Earl (and HOW MUCH DO I LOVE THAT THE CAT IS NAMED EARL), is also fond of Bobo and likes to slip him quietly out of the room. Willy finds Earl (whom the Kirkus review describes as having “a marvelously blank, inscrutably entitled cat face,” which is just PERFECTLY true) hiding under the covers, embracing Bobo. If you’re having trouble imagining how very funny this is, go get a copy immediately and read it with a young child. It’s flippin’ hysterical is what it is, particularly for those young children, who like to get away with as. much. as. they. can. so very, very often.
In one particularly funny spread (not shown here), when Willy carts Bobo off, Earl sits behind him, shooting him a look of pure contempt, as only a feline can. You can easily imagine the wheels turning in his brain, planning his revenge. Have mercy, this is funny stuff.
I don’t want to give away the entire book here, but let’s just say the showdown continues. And just when you think Willy’s found a clever, loving solution to his need for Bobo and Earl’s need for Bobo, the Rosenthals present a last-page rimshot of a joke, Earl turning the tables once again on our hapless protagonist. And, as you can see in the spreads today, Rosenthal lays this all out with uncluttered cartoon spreads on cream-colored pages, conveying so much good-humored tension and expression with minimal lines and color.
Know why I like to quote the professional reviewers so much? Well, I don’t consider 7-Imp a review blog, first of all, but primarily I like to quote them, because they usually nail it — and so much more succinctly than I ever could. Kirkus wrote about this one in their starred review, “Willy, the protagonist of this small domestic drama, is perfectly, appropriately self-absorbed, as he is barely out of toddlerhood and, as his monologue reveals, he relies on his sock monkey, Bobo, to help him negotiate the challenges of being so young…Small listeners may recognize themselves in the worn-out, napping boy, curled up with his arm around both Bobo and Earl—-but some will also sympathize with Earl’s relentless, devoted recapturing of Bobo (clearly a shared prize in this household). Hilarious for adult readers; an exercise in self-recognition and empathy for the intended audience.”
Yes. THAT. What that reviewer said.
Such a funny book. I hope you get to see a copy soon.
I MUST HAVE BOBO! Copyright © 2011 Eileen Rosenthal. Illustration © 2011 Marc Rosenthal. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
I’m going to be brief (for me) this morning. As mentioned above, I’m typing this on Friday night, since tomorrow morning I head out to a lovely bed-and-breakfast’y type place here in middle Tennessee to write for the weekend. An author friend convinced me to join her, so as you read this, I’m at an inn in beautiful Tennessee, organizing research notes for this big ‘ol project. Yes, writing in peace and quiet, all kid-free. I’ll miss my girls, but it’ll be nice to have the focused time to write. And I look forward to the company of my friend.
I leave you with three things:
1). This fabulous-in-seven-different-directions tribute to public libraries from British author Philip Pullman. Here’s my favorite part:
”I still remember the first library ticket I ever had…I was thrilled. All those books, and I was allowed to borrow whichever I wanted! And I remember some of the first books I borrowed and fell in love with…what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination.
And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?”
2). I love this image, and it’s fitting, given the amount of snow many of us have seen this winter. I don’t know this child (I got this photo from someone at Macmillan Children’s Publishing), but I love her already. The book being devoured by this fourth grader from Weston, Massachusetts, in her perfect little snow fort there is Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog. (Photo credit: Katarina Krek. Yes, the mama’s permission was granted to use the photo.)
3). Now, this will make you get up and dance. (If you click the link up top next to “Listen/Download…”, you can hear it.) So very, very good, though I’m sad to hear Etta James is ill.
That’s about it, as I gotta go pack for my two days of writing.
But what about you? What are YOUR kicks this week? Do tell.
Wait. I guess, since we’re talking about snow, I have one more quick thing: I am falling in love, more and more every day, with this song, “While I Shovel the Snow,” by The Walkmen:
That picture’s not gonna move, but it’s simply a way to listen to the song. I hope you like it, too. It’s been haunting my brain radio for weeks now, hanging out, endearing itself to me quite persistently. It’s a beautiful song.