August 11, 2016
(++++) EARNING THEIR EXCLAMATIONS!
Hooray for Today! By Brian Won. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $16.99.
Move Over, Rover! By Karen Beaumont. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $7.99.
You Had One Job! By Beverly L. Jenkins. Andrews McMeel. $9.99.
There is nothing unusual in the use of exclamation points to make a book’s title seem more emphatic or intense. The exclamatory approach can be overdone, of course, but sometimes it just seems to fit a book’s theme particularly well. For instance, Brian Won’s story of a little owl that wakes up and wants to play with all the other woodland creatures is aptly called Hooray for Today! The title reflects the eyeglasses-wearing owl’s upbeat feelings as she leaves her home in a tree and pulls along a red wagon laden with all sorts of things for playtime, from books to balloons. The only problem is that “today” for an owl is “tonight” for all the other animals. And there is quite an assortment of animals here – this is not just a typical forest full of birds, chipmunks, squirrels and the like. The very first animal whose home Owl, wearing a party hat, approaches, is Elephant, who is sleepy and cannot play when Owl wants to – so Owl cooperatively tucks him in and wishes him good night. The second animal is Zebra, for whom Owl blows a blast on her trumpet. But Zebra too wants to sleep, “so Owl tooted a lullaby” (which Zebra, holding hoofs over her ears, appears not to find very restful). And off Owl goes to find Turtle, the third friend to whom she says, “Hooray for Today!” in big, multicolored letters. But Turtle is not tempted to play by the balloons that Owl brings – he wants to sleep. Owl helpfully ties the balloons around his shell to raise him a bit into the air, then pushes him gently back and forth, as if on a swing. Unfortunately, Owl’s upbeat helpfulness does not bring her anyone to play with – not Giraffe, not Lion, not anybody. Eventually Won shows a wordless silhouette scene of Owl, her wheelbarrow empty except for the party hat and her eyes wide open, standing on a rock all by herself, with nobody else there. She walks sadly back home as the sun rises – and then, of course, all the other animals wish her good morning and now want to play. But now Owl is too sleepy to have fun, and – of dear, how will Won ever end this happily? The answer is that Owl decides simply to take a nap, not to sleep the whole day away, so the very last page of the book has her and her friends wide awake and enjoying themselves. And the book’s final words are suitably exclamatory: “Hooray! Let’s play!”
Playtime is not the issue in Karen Beaumont’s Move Over, Rover! In this book, everyone wants to sleep at the same time. The problem is that all the animals want to sleep in the same place as well: Rover’s doghouse. The book actually starts with Rover alone in his doghouse, wishing for someone to play with, but then a big storm begins and Rover is just glad to have a nice, cozy place to sleep until the rain ends. The doghouse gets a mite too cozy as time goes on, though. First Cat comes by, looking for a place to stay dry, and accommodating Rover gladly makes room. Then Raccoon needs a warm place to rest while the rain comes down, so both Rover and Cat scoot over. Next comes Squirrel, and then Blue Jay, and then Snake (who can slide in pretty easily), and then Mouse – but now Beaumont’s narrative explains, “Tight fit. Might split./ Sorry, Mouse, Full house!” Indeed, Jane Dyer’s delightful illustrations, which give each animal a personality, clearly show the increasingly tight quarters into which the would-be sleepers cram themselves. Then, all of a sudden, everyone rushes out into the rain! Why? It turns out that one other animal needs a warm, quiet place to stay for a while: Skunk! And so the animals scurry about as the storm comes to an end – and when it does, they all look for Rover, who, it turns out, has gone back to his now-vacated doghouse all by himself to have some well-earned, if interrupted, rest. Originally published in 2006 and now available in paperback, Move Over, Rover! is as enjoyable a decade later as it was when it first came out, with the simple, simply told story having just as much charm and the illustrations being just as winningly expressive.
Intended not for kids but for adults – perhaps that should be “for kids of all ages” – Beverly L. Jenkins’ compilation of “Hilarious Pictures of Jobs Gone Horribly Wrong” (as the subtitle has it) certainly deserves both its exclamation-point title and the word emphasis within it: You Had One Job! This is one of those books that capture evanescent Internet scenes and give them a kind of permanence between old-fashioned paper covers. The scenes here are ones so self-evidently wrong that Jenkins’ captions are usually unnecessary (although sometimes quite amusing). There is the packaging of a child’s plastic tea set, for which a copy writer clearly unfamiliar with English has produced the promotional line, “Happy tea time to argue!” There is the supermarket display of ears of corn labeled “bananas,” and the individually wrapped bananas that are individually labeled “whole apple.” There is the back-of-a-school-bus sign that reads, in its entirety, “This Vehicle Does Not.” There is a neatly lettered store sign directing patrons to “Restooms,” and another – this one in a parking garage – telling people to “Pay Your Parking Fee Before Existing.” There is the sign on a repair department – you know, where you go to have things fixed – that reads, “Maintenanc.” Also here are the Thanksgiving-themed item misprinted as “Give Thinks,” the be-careful road warning that you are approaching a “CSOHOL” (with the “C” backwards, too), the picture of a big-eyed and child-friendly snail labeled as “sanil,” and the carefully identified utility label (actually cut into concrete) in the California capital city of “Sacarmneto.” The retail industry proffers a display of “ZzzQuil” nighttime sleep medicine with a big sign saying “Feminine Creams” and a bounteous display of lipsticks on the front of which hang coupons for $1 off cheese. There is a Staples-brand calculator whose 12 numbers read, in groups of three, “7-8-9,” “4-5-4,” “1-2-1,” and “0-decimal point-0.” There is a colorful display of butane lighters labeled “Pregnancy Test.” There is a “one way” street sign pointing to the left and, just below it, a “no left turn” sign. There is a well-made, very professional-looking sign in a coffee shop that offers the slogan, “Every coffee freshly is ground to order, just for you.” And there is a bookstore whose “Self Help/Reference” section proudly displays Dr. Seuss books. Come to think of it, that last one makes sense. The rest of the entries in You Had One Job! don’t, but the job of this book is clearly to make people laugh at the foibles of the world around us, and that job is one it does well, and with exclamatory enthusiasm.