Fuse #8

Friday, July 07, 2006

Review of the Day: Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

Ha HA! Poetry Friday here I come. I managed to remember that today was Friday. That's probably why I was able to come up with this review. Take THAT all the Fridays I somehow forgot.

Okay. So here was my dilemma. I was supposed to review a children’s book of poetry and I had several choices in front of me. I could review the inner city take on “Casey At the Bat”. I could do the meaningful one about a Caribbean country. I could do the one about various epitaphs to people of different professions (I am not making this up). Or I could do the goofy monster one. And the ball fell in the goofy monster’s court by a loooong shot. You hold “Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich” in your hands, and you may not be sure whether or not to trust it. Should I give this to a child? Will they actually enjoy it? Then you read the tiny byline under the title. “And other stories you’re sure to like, because they’re all about monsters, and some of them are also about food. You like food, don’t you? Well, all right then”. Any picture book of poetry that says, “Well, all right then”, on its cover has won my irony-laden little heart. It’s just a nice plus that the poems inside just happen to be funny, beautifully illustrated, and interesting in all sorts of different ways.

Monsters. It’s hard not to love ‘em. Especially classic movie monsters. Now what we have here are all the monsters you could think of put in a variety of humorous and peculiar situations. There’s “Count Dracula: Doesn’t Know He’s Been Walking Around All Night With Spinach In His Teeth”. Or howzabout, “The Mummy: Won’t Go To His Eternal Rest Without a Story and Some Cookies”? They’re all here, illustrated in a vast variety of ways by the ultra-talented Adam Rex. Each poem is a scintillating series of new ideas involving all sorts of critters. Hidden in the pictures as well are limericks from the fictional, “Michelle & VonFuzz Limerical Guide To Monsters”. Kids will lap up the goofy pictures and creatures. Adults will find much to love in the overall humor. Altogether, this book’s a trip.

Of course, this is not the only children’s picture book to recently bring up some classic monsters from the past. “Mommy?”, by Maurice Sendak is also a wonderful monsterish tribute to the likes of The Mummy, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, etc. What is to account for this ghoulish trend in children’s picture book literature? Haven’t a clue. Maybe publishers have eschewed such ideas in the past and are only right now ready for them. That’s my theory, anyway.

So will children like this book? I mean, it does do some pretty amusing grown-up jokes that’ll soar right over the l’il kiddies’ heads. Heck, even the Dedications in this book are funny. They’re listed as “Dedications And/Or Weaknesses” and include things like, “For Scott – Light Beer”. And then there was the laugh-out-loud poem (part of a running gag), “Now the Phantom of the Opera Can’t Get ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ Out of His Head w/a Peppercorn Coulis”. But in spite of all of these, you can’t get past the fact that the book is really funny AND fun to read. The pictures will suck children in immediately, and the fact that there are elements like the comic strip “Zombie Zombie” feature (which gives us the immortal image of a Zombie Samba) is enough to convince me that children everywhere will love it. Perhaps less so the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Henderson’s Five Alarm Chili”, but I’ve been known to be wrong. Also, some points will have to be detracted from Mr. Rex’s score for a tiny mention of Britney Spears. Naughty, Mr. Rex. Naughty. There is no room in this book for that particular monster.

The sheer variety in illustration styles is what really impressed me, though. If you’ve ever seen an Adam Rex work, be it “The Dirty Cowboy” or “Tree-Ring Circus”, then you know how good the guy is. What you may not have been aware of, however, was the massive range the fellow has. Somehow or other, this book has uncorked all of Mr. Rex’s hitherto bottled up expressiveness, and the result is everything from realistic oil paintings, pages that could have come from guide books, images that glow with that old-timey silver screen feel, a comic strip, some computer graphic work, and a selection that looks as if it was engraved and created in the late 19th century. THAT is what you will find here.

Finally we come to the obligatory poop joke. Apparently a law was passed about ten years ago that states that no children’s movie can have a trailer that does not involve either pooping or farting in some manner. This sometimes carries over to children’s picture books (how else to explain the success of “Walter the Farting Dog”?). Actually, this book is fairly poop-free, until the veeeery last poem. Ah, “Godzilla Pooped On My Honda”. But, y’know, I can almost forgive it for the picture that accompanies it. It’s on the last page and there we see a Japanese woman staring at... well, you know. In the background are Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah (your guess is as good as mine), etc. My real objection? Where the heck is Gamera? Like you can do a Japanese monster tribute without that greatest of gigantic turtles. I mean, really.

My knowledge of monster-related poetry books is not what it could be. Still, if you’re looking for a title to pair this book with, might I suggest the aforementioned, “Mommy?” or, even better, Judy Sierra’s apropos, “Monster Goose”. If your little brain is all ah-twitter this Halloween season and you want to buy something for the kiddies that will amuse their parents and children alike, you can’t go wrong with “Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich”. Just don’t start flipping through it if you’re under a time constraint. You’ll never put it down.

On shelves September 1st.


At 8:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ack! You didn't mention Adam's Ste-e-e-e-amboat A'Comin! (FSG, 2005, written by moi, Jill Esbaum), in which his GORGEOUS oil paintings bring the 1860s to life. He's so imaginative. Definitely one of the best new illustrators in the biz. Love him. I only hope I'm fortunate enough to work with him again someday....

Found your blog during your ALA postings. Enjoying it so much!

At 9:35 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

True true. I didn't mention it, but it's a doozy of a great book.

Thanks for stopping on by ye olde blog. Um.... have anything coming out soon *hint hint*?

At 10:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't thank you enough, Ms. 8.
For what it's worth, I had Gamera in mind in the lines, "that Ghidorah has taken wing/ to fight some sort of turtle thing."
"Turtle thing" is hardly an appropriate description for a kaiju of Gamera's stature, however, and I apologize to you both.

At 11:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why, as a matter of fact, I do. It's ESTELLE TAKES A BATH, a rhymer that is - according to the industry blurb - "a wild, soapy romp." It comes out from Holt in early October. I read it at school visits this past spring, where kids screamed with laughter at Mary Newell DePalma's brilliant illustrations.

Ahhh, music to my ears....

At 12:14 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Gamera's failure to appear has been forgiven. Perhaps my favorite MST3K moments were of watching old Gamera films of yore. Hence my concern for his well-being. I'm glad you liked the review, though. Boy, you authorial types find your online reviews faster and faster these days! Color me impressed.


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