Oh David Small! For decades you and your wife gave us stories that we loved, populated by characters that, for all their exaggerated features, were wonderful, recognizable real people. Your landscapes and buildings always looked effortless but terrific. Then you wrote Stitches: A Memoir, and we all cried our eyes out. Amazing graphic novel memoir. And I don't know about other people in my industry, but I figured, given the acclaim Stitches garnered, David Small would then by and large quit illustrating picture books.
So pleased to be wrong!
One Cool Friend follows Elliot, a tidy, polite little boy, on a trip to the aquarium with his father, a somewhat more expansive chap, where Elliot becomes rather a fan of penguins. And brings one home. A cute story with a running joke and surprise ending that had my middle grade boys grinning with pleasure.
And here are the reasons I am so pleased David Small is not giving up the day job:
- Look at that cover. The boy and his penguin pal back to back, for all the world like Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle vamping for their Puttin' on the Ritz routine in Young Frankenstein. Spiffy choice!
- Look at Elliot. Big blue eyes and a wide, honest face, with unruly semi-curly hair... wait a minute! Put blonde hair on that kid and he'd look just like our friend Eliot!
- Look at the aquarium! Drawn to resemble an igloo on the inside, with parallel lines that curve and curve and curve again, its hallways are a spectacular exercise in non-precise perspective. And yet, all it does is look cool - the ice-block walls are drawn in freehand colored pencil, so they don't leap out at you going LOOK HOW HARD I WAS TO DRAW.
- The way Elliot's dad's expressions and attire foreshadow the surprise ending.
- The unfazed librarian, Ms. Stanbridge, and her PINK HAIR.
One Cool Friend also reviewed by Travis at 100 Scope Notes
and of course David Small and Toni Buzzeo dropped in for a chat with Jules at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.