Seven Impossible Things I Like About
January 27th, 2007 by jules
17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore and
Counting to 10 with Karen Ehrhardt and R.G. Roth
by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
published by Random House Children’s Books
(my source: review copy)
About: It’s just what the title tells you. A little girl lists all the things she’s gotten busted for, most of them targetted at her younger brother — such as, stapling his head to the pillow; gluing his slippers to the floor; telling him his fortune (involving consumption by hyenas), while reading his palm; and freezing a dead fly in his ice cubes.
Counting to 17 with Offill and Carpenter —
- Its humor. Yup, she really staples her brother’s head (via his hair, which would be a tricky feat, but we’ll willingly suspend some of our disbelief here) to a pillow. To see him run to his mama with a pillowcase firmly attached to his noggin is pretty funny. (She’s not allowed to use the stapler anymore). Oh, and she sets Joey Whipple’s shoe on fire using the sun and a magnifying glass — during class, no less. Pyro. I wanna hang out with her (though she’s not allowed to set Joey Whipple on fire anymore).
- Carpenter’s illustrations, rendered in pen-and-ink and digital media. It’s a lovely little merging of her drawings and real objects. Artists do this a lot anymore, no? But Carpenter stands out in this title; one technique never distracts from the other. I like the staples around the text after the head-stapling fiasco; I like the series of seams we see on what are obviously girls’ underpants in the background of the page in which she shows Joey Whipple her underwear by doing a handstand on the playground (she’s not allowed to show Joey Whipple her underpants anymore); I like the small touches, such as the ink blot in the pocket of her nerdy teacher’s shirt; I like the real mixed veggies on her and her brother’s plates (look closely; they’re real) as she flings cauliflower in his face (she is “not allowed to give the gift of cauliflower anymore”).
- Everything about the book’s design — from the swirly lines of glue on the book’s cover, raised just slightly, giving it a definite texture, to the pages of tablet paper that serve as backdrop to the cataloging/publication data page and the title page and to the “mottled look” of the book’s text (“the type was printed onto paper, which was crumpled and gently filed with an emery board. The type was then rescanned and manipulated in Adobe Photoshop,” we are told on the CIP page).
- I like the spunk and personality of which this young female protagonist totally reeks.
- Her report on beavers for class (she is not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore, as it was supposed to be about George Washington, you see), including her depiction of beavers crossing the Delaware River and a beaver dollar bill and her dedication of the report to all beavers that ever lived.
- Her dinner-time histrionics (see for yourself).
- The very last page. Just when you think Offill will go all No, David! on ya (the Mommy-I’ve been-bad-all-day-but-hug-me-please ending), instead the girl gets the last laugh. She hugs mama but tells us with a (metaphorically) sly wink that her last idea is to say the opposite of what she means to trick everyone (who didn’t play that all the dang time as a child?), the one thing she figures she’s allowed to do “forevermore.” And what is she doing? She’s hugging mama and saying “I’m sorry.” Clever little girl, that one.
And clever little book, this one.
by Karen Ehrhardt and illustrated by R.G. Roth
published by Harcourt Children’s Books
(my source: library copy)
About: Profiles of and tributes to nine finger-snappin’, scattin’, foot-stompin’ and shufflin’, horn-blowin’, drum-beatin’, wailin’, bass-thumpin’, and all-around swingin’ African-American jazz musicians — set to the tune of “This Old Man.”
Counting to 10 with Ehrhardt and Roth —
- This is Ehrhardt’s first picture book, and she’s earned her chops (to use a jazz phrase she herself borrows with nice effect in the book to refer to Art “Bu” Blakey). I gotsta gotsta have my picture books about jazz, and this introduction to nine masters of the form is a wonderful addition to the collection.
- Roth’s illustrations, created in mixed media collage and printmaking on watercolor paper, are one-of-a-kind. His primarily-pastel color choice really works, giving the book a real cheerfulness and liveliness. And his use of line (in particular) in the illustrations makes for some visually dynamic spreads (from the spotlight on Bill “Bojangles” Robinson to his plaid jacket and zig-zag pants; to the striped curtain hanging above Luciano “Chano” Pozo y Gonzalez; to Art “Bu” Blakey’s long drumsticks; to Charles “Baron” Mingus’ tall, domineering bass; and much more). There are lots of patterns, lots of color, lots of energetic borders, lots of interplay between text and illustration that make Roth’s art work jump off the page.
- Ehrhardt’s use of onomatopoeia in the text endows the book with its own, singular rhythm and percussion and beat. There are many zingin’ “bippity-bops!”, “poppity-pops!”, and “bomp-bomp! bubbuda-bomps!” . . . and, best of all, they are strewn across the spreads in quite the animated, colorful, and buoyant style.
- Ehrhardt gives us profiles of each musician at the book’s close. And she throws in fun facts about some of them that effectively humanize them (such as describing how Bojangles celebrated his sixty-first birthday: by “tapping down Broadway for sixty-one blocks — one block for each year! — and into the theater where he was appearing that night”). Not that they need humanizing, but she surely makes them more interesting to budding jazz fans.
- Ehrhardt’s jacket-flap bio says that she “doesn’t play an instrument and can’t sing a lick” but that she’s “probably listening to music right now in her
home . . .” Nice touch for children who have been handed down by their parents the sounds-like-a-cow-in-heat-when-singing gene who perhaps might think, why would I want to read this?
- As Diane Cole put it in an NPR review, this book provides a “pulsating palate of colors and collage.” Yes, it pulsates. It beats. It pounds. It thrums. It’s much fun.
- In the end, we’re treated to one swingin’ spread of all nine jazz men taking a bow for us, the readers. Now, I ask you: Where else could you see Satchmo, Bojangles, Pozo, Duke Ellington, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Art “Bu” Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Waller, and Charles “Baron” Mingus all on stage together? No where, I tell ya. Sing with me now:
These jazz men, they play ten,
We beg them to play again,
With an “Encore! We want more!”
Give them all a hand,
These jazz men make one great band!
The only thing that would make it better is a CD, featuring each musician highlighted. Since that didn’t happen, you can enjoy Fats Waller’s very funny “Your Feet’s Too Big” (which Ehrhardt mentions specifically in Waller’s profile, pointing out his “rambunctious wisecracks” in that song) in this wonderful CD (check your local library, or if you pay cash for it at your local CD shop, I can guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed. If you are, you have my permission to send me hate mail. While you’re at it, pick this up, ’cause you haven’t lived ’til you hear Ella Fitzgerald sing her rapid-fire “Old McDonald,” complete with her “aw, the heck with it!” line. Plus, it’s got a Giselle Potter illustration on the cover. Bonus!).
There are also Seven Impossible Reasons Why I Should Go to Bed . . .
- zzzzzzzzzzzz . . .