A slow-jam of a meta–picture book leads up to a best thing, indeed.
Frontmatter shows the eponymous Mervin standing on the recto as the title slowly descends in large type from the top of the double-page spread. Eventually a red panda enters on the verso and notices the textual announcement, which remains, dominating the background. “Whooooa…” it says. Other animals join the scene, each one noticing the words and eventually suggesting what the “best thing” might be. Being a sloth, Mervin is in no hurry to respond or to act, and the bird, gazelle, skunk, llama, and other creatures crowding the spread weigh in with humorous ideas delivered in speech-balloon text. The crowding of the spreads makes the animals’ eventual departure all the more dramatic, and when all but the red panda and Mervin leave the scene, new text descends above the red panda on the verso and Mervin, his arms outstretched, on the recto. It reads: “Hug his best friend.” The penultimate spread shows the embracing friends united on the verso with just the words “best friend” on the facing page, and then everyone returns to gaze adoringly at the pair at book’s end. Chan’s appealing, cartoon-style watercolor illustrations enhance the humor of the text throughout the picture book and employ a distinct, memorable style.
A book to hug close and then share with a friend. (Picture book. 4-7)