May 28, 2015
(++++) SMALL PLEASURES
Whose Shoe? By Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. Clarion. $16.99.
The LOUD Book! By Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Renata Liwska. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $8.99.
Brief, neatly rhymed and thoroughly engaging, Eve Bunting’s Whose Shoe? is the simple story of a helpful mouse who finds a single shoe and decides to locate the animal that lost it: “Finders keepers? That’s not true./ I’ll find the owner of this shoe.” This mouse lives in a place, winningly and wittily illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, where tigers ride scooters and myna birds keep shelves of books, and where all the animals wear shoes – most amusingly, Spider, who wears eight whose size makes them difficult to locate and therefore important to lace tight: “If I lost one, I’d be upset—/ spider shoes are hard to get.” Mouse proceeds on his quest, unable to find the shoe’s owner but garnering plenty of praise from the other animals for trying to do the right thing, as when Hippo says, “I want to thank you for inquiring./ Your honesty is quite inspiring.” Hippo’s choice of footwear is designed to prevent him from getting mud between his toes; Elephant prefers high heels, but the shoe found by Mouse is a flat – every animal turns down the shoe, but determined Mouse marches on with it. And of course, eventually he finds its owner – who explains how the shoe ended up in “the tall bamboo” and turns out not to want to keep it. The result: the shoe becomes a gift for Mouse, and although it is much too big for him, he figures out just what to do with it to put it to good use and bring this genuinely adorable book to an apt and amusing conclusion.
There are animals aplenty in The LOUD Book! as well. And there is a heaping helping of charm in the new padded-board-book version of Deborah Underwood’s 2011 companion to The Quiet Book. The various kinds of loudness are situational, and that is what makes the book so clever: Renata Liwska does a wonderful job showing just why “applause loud” is different from “thunderstorm loud,” and both are different from “candy wrapper loud” in a movie theater. Some forms of “loud” are connected: “oops loud” shows the hole in a window after a ball is hit through it, and then “unexpected entrance loud” shows the excitement when the same ball flies into the middle of a play being performed on stage, inside the building whose window was just broken. Other forms of “loud” are simply silly: “spilling your marbles in the library loud.” And some require a bit of thinking: “deafening silence loud” shows a clearly irritated mother rabbit looking down at the two children who are taking cookies out of the jar they have knocked off a shelf. The bunnies, bears and other animals in The LOUD Book! do not speak, but their expressions say a great deal about what each type of “loud” is and how they are participating in or reacting to it. “Ants loud,” for instance, shows the insects crawling over apples in a picnic basket that a clearly distraught little rabbit has just opened – it is her crying, even though not made explicit in words or sounds, that is loud. A treat for pre-readers and young readers to discover or for families to rediscover in a new format, The LOUD Book! promises plenty of quiet enjoyment – unless, of course, kids decide to fill in some of the sounds so artfully communicated through its silent scenes.