That’s author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers pictured below (sans one of his usual great moustaches). He joined me here for a breakfast interview in 2010 and, if you’ll just indulge my inner fifth-grader, his response to the Pivot curse-word question still remains my favorite of all time, given the tantalizing mystery that it is. (I’m sorry, but I love a good, creative curse, so I’ve been thinking about that one for over two years now.)
I’m taking a moment today to briefly share a bit of art from Jeffers’ newest picture book, released last week from Philomel, This Moose Belongs to Me. And that’s because I think he’s one of the best author/illustrators at work today, and I find his books consistently good. (Did you all note that his The Hueys in The New Sweater, released in May of this year from Philomel, was chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2012?)
See that boy up above? That’s Wilfred. He owns a moose. “He hadn’t always owned a moose. The moose came to him a while ago and he knew, just KNEW that it was meant to be his.” He names him Marcel.
Wilfred might be cute, but he can be pretty demanding. He’s generally a good pet-owner, to be sure, but he also has many rules for pet ownership (which are laid out in Jeffers’ distinctive handwriting, a break from the book’s font). These are pretty funny, things such as: “Not making too much noise while Wilfred plays his record collection”; “Maintaining a certain proximity to home,” which is actually a subsection of Rule 7; and “Knocking down things that are out of Wilfred’s reach.” Pictured above we see Marcel blatantly disregarding Rule 7 itself: “Going whichever way Wilfred wants to go.”
Problem is, not only does Marcel sometimes deviate from the rules, but he may not actually be Wilfred’s to begin with.
Or so Wilfred learns when he makes a “terrible discovery. Someone else thought they owned the moose.” (Yes, that text appears in larger, dramatic font in the book.) An “old lady” shows up. She calls Marcel “Rodrigo” and gives him an apple. Wilfred is outraged and humiliated and heads home, and … well, I can’t give away the entire story, should you want to read this one yourself. Here’s a hint, though:
Rescuing your owner from PERILOUS SITUATIONS.”
(Click to embiggen the spread)
What we have here is another glorious offbeat, misfit tale from one of contemporary children’s literature’s best misfits, but I have to say: This picture book could also generate some great discussions with children about what it means to own something, particularly another creature. Not that I’d put the book down after reading it and grill children, by any means, but as my grad school prof always use to say, it just might “complicate their thinking,” which is always a good thing.
The funniest part about this book? I have to credit the Publishers Weekly review for putting it best: “What really ups the ante are Jeffers’s…incongruously grandiose backdrops. Wilfred’s struggle plays out against dawn-kissed mountain ranges, brooding spruces, and sweeping American plains, giving the proceedings an air of faux-solemn dignity that’s hilariously at odds with Wilfred’s dorky personality.” (I don’t happen to have any of those spreads to show you here, but note the cover below to get a general sense of it.) I have an F&G of this one (not a final, hardbound copy), but in my copy, it notes in tiny print on the copyright page that the landscape backgrounds are from California artist Alexander Dzigurski. Evidently, Jeffers uses “a mishmash of oil painting onto old linotype and painted landscapes and a bit of technical wizardry thrown into the mix.”
I’m so glad he makes picture books. Who’s with me?
THIS MOOSE BELONGS TO ME. Copyright © 2012 by Oliver Jeffers. Published by Philomel, New York. Illustrations and author photo used with permission of Penguin Books.