"Smart, witty text matched by fine design and illustrations make this kids’ book a tasty, offbeat treat."– Kirkus Reviews
A boy discovers a world of danger—and music—in this fantastic nearly wordless picture book by veteran Bartlett (Tuba Lessons, 2009).
In a black-and-white world, a young boy leaves home to go to attend his drum lesson. His mother’s admonished him not to stray from the path, but, in the long tradition of fairy tales, he just can’t help himself and soon takes a path into the woods. First, he climbs the trees, using his drum as a stool to reach higher branches, and then he hangs upside down. Finally, he perceives musical notes—the first spots of color in the book—at the edge of his hearing. As he follows their call, the world becomes a marvelous, vivid place, and he meets a group of cartoonish woodland creatures (plus one giraffe and one penguin), all singing together. The drummer grabs his gear and joins them, pounding black musical notes into the air. Not wanting to be left out, a lion bounds onto the scene, roaring huge notes that bowl everyone over. Although the drummer scolds the lion, the great cat has the last word—a note that topples the drummer over a cliff in a fantastic two-page spread that requires readers to turn the book 90 degrees. With the help of the other animals, the lion pulls the drummer to safety. After another jam session, the boy departs—only to wake up in black-and-white again near his music teacher’s home. For readers familiar with Bartlett’s Tuba Lessons, which was illustrated by Monique Felix, this plot won’t be a new one. Indeed, this story is nearly identical to the one in that earlier, celebrated volume. But here, Bartlett presents his own original artwork, showing the story the way he envisions it. Both the text and pictures are delightful throughout, and even if readers already own Tuba Lessons, there’s enough joy here in the illustrations alone to merit reading—or owning—this version as well.
A wonderful tale of imagination about the magic of marching to the beat of one’s own drum—even if it takes one in an unexpected direction.
Music soothes the savage beast in this near-wordless picture book about a boy on his way to a tuba lesson.
The tuba is about as big as the boy, who's warned not to ``dillydally'' in the woods, or he'll be late. He trots along a road of five lines, which looks suspiciously like a music staff; one line curves up to become a tree, which he first climbs and then naps under. A squirrel in the tree creates a giant musical note by fooling with the tuba; a host of critters poke their noses out of hiding places in the lines of the road. Soon there's a rollicking concert in the woods, interrupted by a ticked-off bear, who eventually succumbs to the music. There's a genial conspiracy between readers and the book's characters in the delight of dawdling, and a variety of events cleverly pace the book. Felix's illustrations are drawn on oatmeal-colored paper, which shows through the lines and smudges of pastel.
Whimsical animals and ingenious compositions provide more fun, but this is serious art: Felix plays maestro to Bartlett's utterly childlike notions. (Picture book. 4-7)
An entertaining, original take on counting from children’s book author and illustrator Bartlett (Tuba Lessons, 2009).
This counting lesson quirkily begins with “a Dog named Zero who lived in Hawaii for almost twenty years—but doesn’t live there anymore” and a nameless, “juicy red Apple” hanging tantalizingly high on a very tall tree. Little Zero, it seems, has a hankering for the yummy fruit, but how to reach it? On each succeeding page of this cumulative, giggle-inducing tale, assorted creatures (whose names happen to be One through Ten) arrive and offer to help Zero ascend high enough to pluck the apple by stacking themselves on top of one another. They raise the hungry dog higher and higher until success is in reach, and then, “out of the deep blue sky, a Bee named Charlie buzzed by…in the worst mood ever,” with predictable, tumble-down results. Never fear; the book ends happily for all (although the apple and bee might disagree); the apple, by unanimous consent, finally receives a very apt name. Bartlett’s humorous text, colorful pencil drawings and complementary book design propel this adventure forward with delightful silliness. The helpful, big-eyed creatures range from the ordinary (“A Chicken named One and a Pig named Two”) to the unexpected (“an Inch Worm named Ten…the strongest worm in the observable universe”). Another plus is the book’s smart use of vocabulary and clever wordplay; for example, a cow named Five and a bull named Six ask Zero, “If you can’t count on us, then moo can you count on?” Overall, this exercise in counting is a downright charmer.
Smart, witty text matched by fine design and illustrations make this kids’ book a tasty, offbeat treat.
A cat pursues his dream of flight and succeeds, with a little help from some feathery friends, in another delightfully entertaining picture book from author/illustrator Bartlett.
A deft visual storyteller with a talent for quirky, child-friendly humor, Bartlett has created this gently comical narrative through double- and single-spread illustrations—colored and graphite-style line drawings of appealing characters against expansive white space. And in lieu of words, he relies on an expressive use of question marks and exclamation points. The book begins as a blue, googly-eyed little bird loop-de-loops over the head of a chubby orange tabby. Far from eyeing the bird as a potential meal, the cat admires the bird’s aerial gymnastics (represented throughout the book by a lively dotted line), and he’s clearly struck by a desire to go soaring himself. But how? As the enterprising kitty experiments with various ways he might take flight, the puzzled bird that inspired him watches his efforts and is joined by other curious feathered observers. (Parents might use the humorous birds to encourage young children to get in some counting practice: Bartlett increases and decreases their numbers page by page, from one to five and back again over the course of the tale.) Each of the cat’s ideas—a rickety chair, a bunch of helium balloons and a pair of cardboard wings among them—propels the determined feline to try, try again. The little birds, meanwhile, flit through the pages watching the cat’s doomed-to-fail efforts until, after perching on telephone wires to engage in a noisy confab (rendered as a witty multiplication of question marks and exclamation points), they decide to help the hapless tabby attain his wish. Bartlett, who offers the book’s dedication “For all those who dare to fly,” ends his good-hearted tale with an unexpected visual giggle underscored by one final question mark.
A charming wordless picture book for young children that conveys a message of friendship with a deceptively simple illustrative style, gentle humor and certain well-placed punctuation marks.
A young boy tries to outwit the enigmatic tickle monster in Bartlett’s playful debut picture book.
Mother and Father sit on the sofa reading a newspaper. The headline on the front page reads: “Monster Loose.” The parents scoff at the idea of such a creature, but their son decides to prove to them and everyone else that the tickle monster lives. The resourceful young lad sets off around the house with his arms curved like horns in a bid to scare off his foe. The tickle monster follows him up the stairs and into bed. At night, it wants to be seen, banging drums and balancing cups, vying for the boy’s attention, but during the day, the monster disappears. The youngster searches the kitchen, the library, the sunroom, but the monster hides behind curtains, between books, under beds, waiting for that moment when it can spring out and catch its prey. Intricately detailed pen-and-ink illustrations on vellum—depicting everything from floral wallpaper to stuffed owls—accompany the text. Only the boy and the monster bring color into the rooms, allowing the eye to follow the hide-and-seek games they play with each other. The monster, with its pointed claws and bulbous body, would fit neatly into a family of Maurice Sendak’s “wild things,” but a small child might find the thought of a monster in their house frightening. At the back of this fun tale, the author includes a detailed list of all the little things from his childhood that inspired him to create the story, and he encourages readers to return to the tale and rediscover them.
Provides a unique twist on an age-old monster in a beautifully presented book; however, certain aspects might scare off young children.
A curmudgeonly creature gets his comeuppance in this children’s picture book from writer/illustrator Bartlett (You Can’t Tickle Me, 2015, etc.).
The author introduces his antagonistic protagonist with a tongue-in-cheek diagram titled “Anatomy of a Grump.” The Grump somewhat resembles Mr. Potato Head, with stubby limbs poking out of an amorphous abdomen; small, buggy white eyes; a tiny tuft of hair; and an oversized nose. The narrator explains that The Grump has no family, friends, or allies to speak of. Based on this, it’s easy to understand his general displeasure with the world; however, young readers shouldn’t feel too badly for him, due to his insufferable, permanent sourness and his comically dour face. Bartlett uses scaled illustrations to show that The Grump, though wide, is a relatively small creature compared with humans, and the images throughout are clear and communicative. The Grump’s warm, burnt sienna coloring, for example, pops against the electric Turkish-blue sky and lime green grass. As he strolls along, he encounters anthropomorphic blades of grass, flowers, and trees, and Bartlett provides a dynamic and flowing layout to engage readers during the journey. Each visual composition is distinctive; even the author’s text moves and flows, musically guiding the reader’s eye. The author angles or enlarges key words to emphasize them, giving the story a unique look. Each time The Grump encounters another being, he stubbornly refuses to even slightly alter his own path; instead, he consumes his living obstacles, getting bigger and bigger. Ultimately, his stubbornness results in his demise, as his final obstacle turns out to be a part of himself—which he then eats. Bartlett aptly makes this act appear comical rather than violent: The Grump simply disappears into thin air. Young readers and their caregivers may be surprised or even disappointed that The Grump doesn’t learn the error of his ways or receive a second chance. However, the book itself offers a clear lesson and, ultimately, another kind of happy rebirth.
This book’s goofy illustrations and rhythmic prose will likely delight young readers.
Three cheese-loving mouse friends find themselves face-to-face with a hungry cat in Bartlett’s (Never Was a Grump Grumpier, 2014, etc.) cheerful children’s book.
Footloose, Fancy, and Free are three mouse pals, and like many rodents, they love to eat cheese. In fact, it’s their favorite activity in the whole world, so it’s no surprise that after the trio sneaks into Jim’s world-famous cheese emporium via a keyhole, a mousehole, and the front door, they eat themselves silly. But there’s a problem: Footloose, Fancy, and Free eat so much that they can no longer get out of the shop. Their rotund, cheese-stuffed bodies simply can’t fit through the exits. Things get more harrowing when Gourmet, a cat, comes around, because her favorite thing, like many cats, is to chew up delicious mice. What will the three friends do to escape? The answer involves a mousetrap, a pair of reading glasses, and the concept of having too much of a good thing. All readers, even lactose-intolerant ones, will be able to relate to the lesson of the mice’s story: when you can have as much as you want, it’s hard to control yourself, and there are always consequences. The book is suspenseful (the mice are in peril, after all) without being too scary; it will work well for both younger and older children as well as for adults who may be turning the pages. Bartlett’s illustrations are also fantastic; they make the book come alive with energy and add a lot to the accompanying text. The charming, thought-out design and layout, with words scattered about the pages, make it clear that Bartlett is a skilled comic writer, as does the punch line at the end. The book’s sturdy construction will also come in handy for many evenings of page-turning bedtime stories.
A fine children’s book about mice who get in a bit of wonderful trouble.