I lead a pretty prosaic life. The biggest, hairiest, most mysterious creature in my life (no cracks about library customers, please, esteemed co-workers!) is our big orange cat, Babe. Named for Babe the Blue Ox, not Babe Didrickson Zaharias or Babe the Gallant Pig. But as mystifying as Babe's behavior sometimes is, he is depressingly accessible. He's no cryptid, in other words.
And sometimes you just need a little mystery. Ergo, Bigfoot...
So Ashley Spires put out this absolutely cute picture book a couple months ago, Larf, that is all about being alone - and that's ok - and reaching out to someone - which is also ok - but being nervous about it - understandable, and also ok - but then meeting someone nice anyway. Which is way ok.
Love Larf. Love Ashley Spires! Ashley Spires, in case you didn't realize, which I didn't, is the person responsible for that farting dreamer of a housecat, Binky (Binky the Space Cat). Every one of those books is a charmer, as is Larf. Larf is, contrary to what I think are most people's expectations about Sasquatches, rather a neat person. He folds his laundry and washes his dishes after he uses them. He wears a neat red scarf. He lives alone but he's not lonely. Not super lonely anyway.
One day he hears about another Bigfoot, and he is excited. Excited but concerned. Concerned but excited but nervous. Nervous but... oh you get the idea. And how good is Ashley Spires? She is so good that she can depict that expression on the face of a semi-mythological beast which is covered with hair.
Also Ashley Spires makes adorable stuff out of felt, but that's not important right now.
But Larf put me in mind of another picture book, one that I like a lot but I think I never got around to reviewing. George O'Connor, he of the Olympians graphic novels and the intermittently excellent hair (seriously) wrote this great picture book called Uncle Bigfoot a few years ago, and it has stood the test of time as one of those rowdy picture books I like so much.
Everybody has at least one family member who is startling in some way - my boys have twenty aunts and uncles, which is startling all by itself.
But Uncle Bernie... well, Uncle Bernie is mammoth, and hairy, has big hands and feet, and is strong like a bull. So the kid in this story, an imaginative, inquiring type (he comes by it honestly - his folks have copies of The Mothman Prophecies and The Last Unicorn on their bookshelves), does his research, correlating facts about Bigfoot with what he knows about Bernie. Most of what he learns supports his theory that Bernie... is a Bigfoot. However, his Bigfoot book also tells him that Bigfoots are mean and scary, and that lets sweet, helpful, baby-loving Bernie off the hook right away.
The art in this is fun and strong, especially Bernie, with his big gut and tiny shoulders. The kid's expressions are marvelous. And older kids will find a lot to look at in the backgrounds and around the edges in these drawings. I particularly love the stuffed lemur in Mom's office and the baby sucking on an action figure like a pacifier. As one does.
And just when I've gotten myself all interested in Bigfoots, here comes the brand-new picture book Don't Squish the Sasquatch! In it, master geometrician Bob Staake gives us a green Bigfoot, a flexible, urbane fellow with a jaunty fedora and a red bow tie. I can only imagine how surprised author Kent Redeker must have been when he started getting PDF's in his inbox and he saw this big noodly green gent in a Reservoir Dogs suit.
It works, though - especially since the other critters in the story are these great huge crazy chimeras, like Mr. Octo-Rhino, Miss Goat-Whale, and Miss Loch-Ness-Monster-Space Alien. They all cram onto the bus, and poor Sasquatch gets squished, which he DOES NOT LIKE. Then there's a big blammo, and then all the other characters fix his feelings by smooching him up.
I was thinking that this might make a very fine storytime book, and then I was thinking it might make fun Reader's Theater, but then I realized - with these fun characters and the bus, we should make feltboard pieces (color xerox the illustrations, cut them out, laminate them, glue them to felt) for Storytime Deluxe! The grown-up reads aloud while the kids put all the characters into the bus, squishing the Sasquatch themselves.
Somebody tell me - does making your own book-based manipulables qualify as fair use?
(Thanks Bob Staake for sending me the jpeg - boy do I hate trying to scan picture books!)
So NEXT I pulled out our copy of In Search of Sasquatch by Kelly Milner Halls. Kelly does terrific nonfiction for kids - she has a conversational writing style that keeps 'em reading, but she never lets informality get in the way of accuracy. She also respects her readers enough to give them actual quotes from grown-up scientists, not dumbed-down paraphrases - a practice that consistently pisses me off when reading children's nonfiction.
But there I am reading an especially interesting part about the Native American traditions that seem to support the existence of a big hairy arboreal biped living on our continent, and I see this picture:
Look at the pattern on that basket - made me think, "Huh - Bob Staake really did his homework when he put together that endpaper pattern." Bob, however, assures me that this is not the case. I guess some images just dwell in our collective unconscious.
Last but not least, I mentioned the other day that I'd read Lish McBride's sequel to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Necromancing the Stone. Even though I am a massive evangelist for Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (have you read it? you should!), I am going to have to just accept that I'm not going to have time to write a review of the second book. BUT. Since I'm writing about Bigfoot, I'll leave you with an introduction to Lish McBride's version:
Ramon, who was sitting next to me, was having a reaction similar to mine. We were both staring with a glazed look at the biggest guy I'd ever seen. He was about as tall as Ed [jackal-headed harbinger, not human friend], but where Ed was lean, this guy was built... well the term brick shithouse comes to mind, though I've never quite understood what that meant. He was big in scale, not just tall. And he was covered from head to giant toe in reddish brown fur. Oddly enough, he was wearing an olive green forest ranger's uniform.
The hairy man smiled, and his teeth were like giant off-white boulders. Realizing I was staring, I tried to stop, but I couldn't. "You're a, um..." I couldn't quite bring myself to say it. Even after all I'd seen and all the creatures I'd met, he was unbelievable.
He chortled at my reaction, then squatted down in a movement slightly more monkey than man and offered me a hand, palm up, like you do with scared animals sometimes so they can smell you, which is both weird and a good way to lose a finger if the animal is scared. I gave him five instead. "I believe the current moniker you've given us is Bigfoot. We'll just leave it at that." He helped me up. "But you may call me Murray." He tapped the cursive stitching on his shirt. It said MURRAY. Go figure.
Now, this author lives in the Pacific Northwest, so I think we should take her as an authoritative source. Because their habitat is shrinking, Murray and his family are trying to integrate into human society, using a magic charm to make them look less Sasquatchy. His cousin Gary works as a UPS guy. Which I kind of buy.
That guy could be a Sasquatch. Your UPS guy could be too.