Foxy and Egg
by Alex Smith
Holiday House 2011, review copy from library
An egg visits Foxy, who hopes to fatten it up to eat the next day but gets a big surprise instead. Okay, it’s an egg visiting. An egg. An egg doesn’t visit or fatten up or play parlor games for exercise. It doesn’t grow huge overnight to crack open as a full-grown crocodile. Because it’s an egg. I’m getting that this is supposed to fall into the realm of the silly, but doesn’t pull it off and just seems like a dumb concept from the start. Maybe the story was supposed to be a takeoff on the crocodile and the hen folktale, which actually makes sense and is done quite well in Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile. Honestly, I’m not crazy about the mixed media illustrations either, but it’s the story here that lacks cohesion and loses me at the first premise with that stupid egg.
Scritch-Scratch, a Perfect Match
by Kimberly Marcus, illustrated by Mike Lester
Putnam Juvenile 2011, review copy from library
A flea biting a dog sets up a series of events that brings the dog to an owner and an innocent cat to harbor the flea. The story was slight and yet fairly illogical. Why does one flea drive this dog insane? Why does a random person feel the need to take care of this dog that just knocked him in the mud? What did the cat ever do to deserve this? The rhyming verses weren’t great either, as rhyming verses rarely are. But the illustrations seem ill-conceived for a picture book, being, well... ugly, with huge noses, bulgy eyes, and exaggerated expressions. The pen-and-ink outlines are surrounded by unfocused explosions of color in a distracting way that sometimes makes it hard to tell what is pictured. I’ve liked this illustrator in Ninety-Three in My Family, but this title misses the mark. The text might have squeaked through with more charming illustrations, but neither here can save the other.
King Hugo’s Huge Ego
by Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick 2011, review copy from library
A king with a huge ego pushes a maiden out of the roadway, causing her — as a sorceress in disguise — to put a spell on him to have the size of his head reflect his arrogance. His head grows so big that it catches the wind and blows him away from the kingdom to the feet of the girl, who deflates him with knowledge of his wrongdoing. His instant regret of his actions makes her fall in love with him and marry him. The End. Obvious message? Check. Rote ending? Check. Bad rhyming? Check. And let’s add the image of the king’s head growing grotesquely large as an image that nightmares are based on. I may be alone in my dislike of this title given the Amazon reviews, but again, I like the author/illustrator’s other books — like The Circus Ship — far more. I was really ticked that the maiden married the king, because yeah, that’s how fairy tales end, but this was no fairy tale. Better she become his therapist at an outrageous hourly fee and buy her own manor. Woman power!
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