BAD DAY AT RIVERBEND by Chris Van Allsburg

BAD DAY AT RIVERBEND

Age Range: 2 - 8
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Riverbend is a tiny town in the heart of the Wild West where nothing interesting ever happens. The town and its population are deftly drawn in black outlines on a white background. One day a driverless stagecoach rolls into town, its horses covered with ``great stripes of some kind of shiny, greasy slime.'' (Actually, they are red crayon squiggles.) The townsfolk are alarmed and the sheriff bravely rides off to find the driver; sure enough, he's covered with the same stuff. A posse is organized; when they come upon a stick-figure cowboy (in red crayon), they think he's the perpetrator and prepare to shoot him down. Just then, the action freezes: A realistically rendered, finely painted hand appears, holding a crayon, and doodles on them, too. The perspective changes, and readers see a little girl drawing in a book; on the last page, she exits the room, leaving The Cowboy Coloring Book behind. The danger facing all self-referential books is that the premise will overshadow its realization. But Van Allsburg's book is remarkably imaginative in its conception precisely because the premise is not only clever, but proves fertile in a completely unexpected way. Van Allsburg demonstrates in a self-conscious--and tempered--way what happens when two different drawing styles (coloring-book outlines, generally created by adults, and children's doodles) overlap, and when two genres (an entertaining Western adventure and a coloring book) meet. It's a book that starts with one point of view and steps into another. The average bildungsroman accomplishes this kind of transition in several hundred pages; Van Allsburg does it in 32, and leaves the flower of children's bookmaking blooming in the desert town of Riverbend. (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-395-67347-X
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1995




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