When is a skunk not a skunk? When it’s a…skunk.
A bespectacled man peers out his front door at a red-nosed skunk perched on his stoop, gazing back. The skunk does nothing overtly threatening, just looks at the man and then follows him down the street. The man sports tails and a cummerbund, his red bow tie visually connecting him to the skunk’s red nose; overall, McDonnell’s palette is muted, metropolitan blacks and grays occasionally accented by peach and red. The skunk is bipedal, his posture mimicking the narrator’s as he tails the man through the city on foot and by cab—yet, the narrator tells readers, “the skunk was a skunk.” To the opera, through cemetery, carnival—a brief sojourn on a Ferris wheel is particularly symbolic of existential futility—and sewers the man flees, finally finding himself in a completely different part of the city, where he buys a new house. Here the palette changes to primary colors; there is no skunk, but the man’s visiting friends take on the look of circus clowns. Something is missing; the man leaves his housewarming party to find “[his] skunk.” On doing so, the man begins to tail the skunk, to “make sure he does not follow me again.” Adults will turn themselves inside out trying to figure it out; kids will either find the whole idea hysterical or just plain befuddling.
Peculiar, perplexing, and persistent—training wheels for Samuel Beckett. (Picture book. 6-10)