Here’s an existential dilemma: What if you were a character in a book, and sandwich fillings fell onto your page from above?
Louie skips across a calm green field under mild skies and neat, fluffy clouds. His footie pajamas are yellow, and his paper-white face is merry. “Tra la la la la,” he sings. Suddenly, a blob of jelly falls from above, inferably dropped by a less-than-fastidious reader. “HEY!” shouts Louie in a speech bubble that obscures the text, nonplussed. He sniffs and licks the jelly for positive identification, squinting and declaring dissatisfaction with this sticky mess, when suddenly from above—“PLOP!” This time it’s peanut butter. Enjoyable cartoon physics are at work: The peanut butter falls right onto Louie’s face and covers it, but when he leans sideways, he’s free of it. The ultrarealistic digitally collaged PB&J splotches retain their exact shape from spread to spread; McDonnell also uses pen and ink, brush pen, crayon and watercolor. More messes deface the idyllic countryside—fingerprints, juice, scribbles and, worst of all, a paper towel that smears rather than cleaning—and Louie has a meltdown. The blank backgrounds that throw Louie’s freakout in relief, the interplay between narrative text and Louie’s frantic speech bubbles, and Louie’s prostrate despair are all brilliant. Happily, the backgrounds reappear (clean, but what’s that on the endpaper?), and so does Louie’s equilibrium.
A playful, funny and friendly treatment of anxiety and life’s unpredictable messes. (Picture book. 3-7)