Rowe (Smile When You Get There, 2015) offers a short collection of lighthearted observations, illustrated with cartoons and drawings.
Billed as “tiny stories for all ages,” these brief pieces are not really stories at all but rather jokes, aphorisms, and other musings. One can easily read the entire collection in one sitting. Some of the “stories” rely on puns, some are nostalgic, and some offer gently humorous words of advice. Although there are no real knee-slappers, several pieces will surely prompt smiles, such as “Gorilla Bath,” about a childhood bathtime memory, and “Anticlimax,” about the aftermath of a pirate adventure. A few of the better ones, such as “Sky Tree,” are more like poems than stories: “I felt as if I might step into the tree & falling all the way through, drown in the sky.” Many observations provide a wry take on childhood: “Grown-ups are impaired by their disbelief in the idea that just because it’s never worked for anyone else…doesn’t mean it won’t work for you,” reads “Impediment,” featuring a cartoon of a boy attempting an electric-fan–powered flight off the roof of a house. A few selections tackle the subject of romance, which may pass over young readers’ heads: “Her kisses tasted like wild strawberries or at least he thought they did,” begins “Strawberry Kisses,” for example. The artwork often amplifies the stories’ humor, but it lacks a cohesive style. Illustrations range from black-and-white drawings to colorful cartoons (including a rather risqué image of “Patricia Pan” that some parents may find objectionable). Although this collection offers several engaging observations and quite a few chuckles, it seems unfocused regarding its purpose and intended audience. The best bits, though, are those aimed squarely at children and the grown-ups who want to read along with them.
Extremely short vignettes that often hit the mark, but a more focused selection with a unifying theme might have had greater appeal.