Since we've been on a singing, storytiming kick lately, I thought I'd offer this Bizarro World Christmas carol my husband Bob made up once:
Christmas is going, the goose forgot his hat,
Please throw a penny at the old man's cat.
If he hasn't got a cat, then throw it at his head -
If you throw it at his head then he might be dead.
You got that? Have we set the tone, as it were, for this review?
J. otto S., he of the duck-lipped ducks and airbrushed Day-Glo backgrounds, has found himself a Bob stick, so to speak, and, after an exhausting, obstacle-filled chase involving a cart full of chickens and a couple rolling racks of fur coats and a big pane of glass, has caught up to Mother Goose at the bottom of Lombard Street and just GONE to TOWN on the kindly old hag. Tickled her senseless with that big ol' Bob stick.
Some of these rhymes are maybe more inspired than others: "Rain, rain / don't go away. / The sun can shine / some other day." Well, it's a great reason for a big page of happy raindrops using parasols to descend gently through gray clouds. And after all, our Mr. Seibold is an artist first and wordsmith second.
Jack and Jill
and a pickle named Bill
strolled atop a mountain.
Jack bent down
to pick some dill,
and the pickle jumped in
What? No reason - just goofy! Hard to say what's a fountain doing on a mountain, except that it rhymes and it's something for the pickles to jump into.
Jack Splat paints abstract.
His wife paints country scenes.
Together they fill the canvas up
and live the life serene.
Hey, I know couples like that!
I think J. otto's art here is the best I've ever seen from him. And I already admire the work: Alice in Pop-Up Wonderland is a masterpiece, and Going to the Getty holds a special place in my heart - I bought it when I was at the Getty for a meeting, as a gift for my as-yet-unborn first child. His hot, solid, sock-it-to-me colors are energetic interjections in the picture book section. But the scenes in this book are I think better composed for storytelling than some of his previous work. More naturalistic perspective, with picture elements that refer to each other in a more direct way.
Sometimes, these artists that compose on the computer can end up with illustrations that look more like flat assemblages than dimensional scenes. And sometimes that's good (MATISSE: JAZZ). But when you're illustrating a Mother Goose rhyme - even an Other Goose rhyme - and especially when the art completes the thought that the words have started, it's best to have more conventional illustrations, with sight lines and focal points and all that hokey stuff.
What I'm saying is - while this is no conventional Mother Goose book, it is not all that far out there, either. It is funny to read, and even funnier to look at. And while the humor in the rhymes will delight middle grade readers, the illustrations "read" clearly enough to engage even pre-readers.
Here's another one that'll make a good holiday gift. Chronicle has poured some resources into this production - a cloth spine that laps over onto the cover of the book the way the foil does on a Little Golden Book, glittery shellac on the title, heavy paper, and a marvelous printing job.