Early humans about 3 million years ago had “no things,” and Layton wants to show us how they—we—got them.
The artistic style is squiggly and agitated, with occasional collage photos and other overlays. Pictures run in double-page spreads punctuated by tiny identifiers (“No Plates to eat off”), foldouts and larger pop-ups. The left-hand, lower corner of each spread gives a time frame (“12,000-4,000 YEARS AGO”) as readers and humanity move from pointy stones as tools to fire to civilizations, freely dispensing gags along the way. Did the ancient Greeks really invent the hula hoop? “Wheels are wheely useful!” Noting the invention of champagne by Dom Perignon is a nice touch for adult readers. “Ye Book of ye Middle Ages” centers on Europe of course, with a nod toward China for the invention of gunpowder. Perhaps the most amusing paper-engineering effect is the steam engine, which makes a chugga-chugga sound while smoke billows and three bearded guys bounce around behind. At the end, bigger and faster engines give way to smaller and faster microchips. There are several images of this title in various places within the text—very meta indeed—but no references and a lot of generalities. One might say that there is little gender or ethnic mix, but the figures are so abstract or cartoony that it may not matter. There isn’t a lot of matter here, period.
Curiously uninvolving, but it may get children to thinking about stuff and maybe inventing some gizmos of their own.
Lots of flaps and the occasional pull-tab or pop-up don’t make these swift passes at chemistry any less superficial.
The book skims in no particular order over atoms and elements, states of matter (covering only three), water, air, chemical reactions, acids and bases, biochemistry and radioactivity. Each single-topic spread offers a jumble of cartoon figures and shaped or generic flaps—many of which are hinged to provide additional space for such less-than-rigorously-factual observations as “Soap molecules have long tails that love grease. Their heads love water. They clean by surrounding grease blobs and sticking their tails into them.” Similar tidbits scattered on and around the flaps and a scanty assortment of other movable parts offer chemistry basics, introductions to a handful of famous scientists and a few easy demonstrations like the messy but tired Mentos-and–diet-soda geyser.
Younger flapoholics are unlikely to absorb much of the content, and older lab rats will do better with more systematic surveys.
(Informational novelty. 7-10)
The magic dragon rides again, this time incarnated in a pop-up.
In 2007, this artist and publisher did quite a nice picture book of the lyrics to the song written by Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) and Lipton. This is pretty much the same version, gussied up a little with pop-ups. Mostly, they take Puybaret’s gentle, smooth-edged, muted greens, browns, and blues and layer them three-dimensionally. Dolphins with mortarboards and gondolier shirts frolic, as do the peopleflies instead of dragonflies. In the end, it is a little girl (perhaps Jackie’s daughter, as he isn’t present) who comes to Honalee to awaken Puff once again to frolic in the autumn mist. A CD with four tunes is included, two of them versions of “Puff” but neither of those the original: One is a much-less-spirited version with Yarrow and his daughter Bethany singing; one is an instrumental. The other two numbers, also on the less-energetic side, are “Froggie Went A-Courtin’ ” and “The Blue Tail Fly.” The latter, although sung by generations of children, does have historical lyrics with ambiguous meanings related to slavery, and one wonders about its inclusion here.
While this pop-up version adds little to Puff’s enduring charm, at least it does not distract. (Pop-up/picture book. 3-6)
This insipid ovine litany pairs a monotonous, uninspired rhyme with poorly designed extras and bland scenes of clothed sheep at play.
Singly or in groups, the partly dressed woolly baa-baas in Munsinger’s illustrations adopt unimaginative, low-energy poses to demonstrate a long succession of “Morning lambs, / Nighttime lambs, / Lambs in a plane. // Sitting lambs, / Standing lambs, / Lambs in the rain,” and so on, and on. Additions to the right sides of each spread provide some interaction. Flaps with easily torn hinges, for instance, allow the die-cut “plane” (which isn’t even printed on both sides) to move slightly more than an inch; there are also a “snowlamb” coated in blue-grayish sparkly plastic in a winter scene and a kite with a limp segment of real string in a spring scene.
A possibility for bedtime use, considering the soporific verse and routine (at best) “enhancements.” (Novelty. 2-5)
A familiar old tale is taken for a terrific spin with more bears, three pigs, assorted woodland animals, space aliens, additional young cast members (including one in a red hood) and lots and lots of sticky buns.
Being a “cheeky girl,” Goldilocks thinks nothing of following up her destructive visit to the Three Bears’ cottage by messing around in the seemingly similar “cottage”—which expands to a tall apartment house with the pull of a tab—of the 33 Bears. Then, in 2076, inviting herself into the trood (spaceship) of the Three Bliim for a taste of spootz (“porridge, sort of”) and a nap in the smallest woodootog (bed). In further outings, Goldilocks encounters dishes and other furnishings with minds of their own, plays lead in a theatrical romp presented in an inset booklet containing a script and a pop-up stage, and at last finds a number of unexpected houseguests sleeping in her bed. The very small, very finely drawn figures and households insist on (and reward) close looks, and they are enhanced by an array of surprises revealed beneath flaps or through die-cut windows.
The frequently distributed buns aren’t all that’s delicious in this exhilarating suite of variations on a classic.
(Pop-up/fractured fairy tale. 5-9)
The panjandrum of paper engineering offers six dazzling new constructs—each hiding a handful of small cutouts or printed shapes to find.
Tantalizing tallies along the margins invite viewers to spot a “yellow splat, a red vine, a car and a star. / …A sleepy head, in bed, with a red thread on his forehead” and like prizes. These are attached to, dangling from or hidden within the bursts of paper swirls, interlocking mazes and geometrical structures that rise up as each spread opens. The just-barely concealed seek-and-find objects are almost incidental to the fun. It’s impossible to resist closely exploring (with eyes or even gentle fingers) the long, looping curves, glimpsed inner spaces and bright concatenations of form and color just for themselves. Each spread has a separate, distinct look, and each offers a fresh opportunity to encounter, respond to and enjoy Carter’s brilliant artistic gifts.
More playful work from a rare master of abstract design, both rich enough and sturdy enough to support repeat visits.
(Pop-up/picture book. 5-10, adult)