The author of The Best Book in the World (2014), a paean to reading, brings to the art of writing the same over-the-top exuberance.
Unfortunately, here that enthusiasm trumps not just logic, but even coherence. Ideas—rendered in the dizzyingly bright illustrations as crowds of identical, rubber-limbed homunculi clad only in bathing caps—swarm young Sozi’s mental landscape by the bucketful. Forming a chorus line, they inspire her to “make a work of art.” When she sits down with paper and pencil, though, the ideas wander off or are chased away by an imaginary bear (representing, one supposes, writer’s block). Then a helpful codex with eyes and legs slams shut on a fugitive idea and offers it to Sozi, “squished for safekeeping.” Charmed by this intellectual roadkill, she joins her new friend in a further harvest of tiny fugitives. She then sets down the beginning and middle of a story that ends with a just, if metafictional, twist when the book squishes her so that she can join “her friends” inside. Centering on a smiling, masked child, the two-tone art, along with being hard on the eyes, blandly ignores the violence of the conceptual conceit. Moreover, the narrative suddenly breaks into labored verse after a mostly prose beginning: “But she kept on regardless. She refused to quit. / When THE END came, that’s when she would deal with it!”
A perfect storm of ugly imagery, sloppy thinking and subpar writing. (Picture book. 6-8)