A curmudgeonly creature gets his comeuppance in this children’s picture book from writer/illustrator Bartlett (You Can’t Tickle Me, 2015, etc.).
The author introduces his antagonistic protagonist with a tongue-in-cheek diagram titled “Anatomy of a Grump.” The Grump somewhat resembles Mr. Potato Head, with stubby limbs poking out of an amorphous abdomen; small, buggy white eyes; a tiny tuft of hair; and an oversized nose. The narrator explains that The Grump has no family, friends, or allies to speak of. Based on this, it’s easy to understand his general displeasure with the world; however, young readers shouldn’t feel too badly for him, due to his insufferable, permanent sourness and his comically dour face. Bartlett uses scaled illustrations to show that The Grump, though wide, is a relatively small creature compared with humans, and the images throughout are clear and communicative. The Grump’s warm, burnt sienna coloring, for example, pops against the electric Turkish-blue sky and lime green grass. As he strolls along, he encounters anthropomorphic blades of grass, flowers, and trees, and Bartlett provides a dynamic and flowing layout to engage readers during the journey. Each visual composition is distinctive; even the author’s text moves and flows, musically guiding the reader’s eye. The author angles or enlarges key words to emphasize them, giving the story a unique look. Each time The Grump encounters another being, he stubbornly refuses to even slightly alter his own path; instead, he consumes his living obstacles, getting bigger and bigger. Ultimately, his stubbornness results in his demise, as his final obstacle turns out to be a part of himself—which he then eats. Bartlett aptly makes this act appear comical rather than violent: The Grump simply disappears into thin air. Young readers and their caregivers may be surprised or even disappointed that The Grump doesn’t learn the error of his ways or receive a second chance. However, the book itself offers a clear lesson and, ultimately, another kind of happy rebirth.
This book’s goofy illustrations and rhythmic prose will likely delight young readers.