Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Small Readers: Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton III

I was skeptical when, several years ago, I first encountered Eaton's deadpan stories with their lumpy, broadly drawn illustrations. I quickly became a fan, however, especially when I saw how much kids giggled over them. When his graphic novel series, Beaver Brothers came out, I was hooked. So I was quite thrilled to see that he's back with a new easy reader series.

It would be easy to call these "the new Elephant and Piggie" and compare them to Willems, but they're a completely different animal. Heh.

The book opens with bright yellow endpapers, patterned with a stick, leaves, stone, turtle, acorn, and cattail. The title page gives the reader the first hint that Andy and Preston's relationship isn't the typical odd fellow friendship, showing the alligator holding the....let's call him a groundhog...up to his mouth. The first chapter, "Rabbit Games", introduces Andy (the alligator) and Preston (the other one). Andy is dreaming of a tasty rabbit dish, when Preston shows up, ready to play with his best friend! They're playing with a rabbit! So much fun! Andy, resigned to the situation, decides that Preston might as well be useful, but the game doesn't end up the way he expects! In chapter two, "Okay Andy" Preston is cheerfully collecting things to add to his acorn and keeps asking Andy if it's okay for him to have them. When Andy loses his footing, his stick, and his temper, will things be okay? Maybe, maybe not. The third and last chapter, "ZZZ" hints that Preston just might not be the friendly but clueless type. Andy just wants to sleep, but Preston wants to play a guessing game! This is the funniest chapter and kids will giggle helplessly as the exhausted Andy guesses all the wrong things for Preston's sound...and they both get a big surprise!

Maxwell Eaton's art has a distinctive, handmade style with big blocks of color and thick, hand-drawn lines. You might expect the dot eyes and lines to create characters that lack expression, but they are wonderfully expressive. Andy's exasperated friendship, Preston's enthusiasm, and Eaton's deadpan humor shine through every part of the art.

The text is simple, in some chapters consisted of only a few words, but this is one that will build children's visual as well as textual literacy, encouraging them to look for clues in the pictures, combine those with the text, and figure out what's going on beyond just the surface of the text. They will also be encouraged to read facial and physical expressions.

Verdict: No surprise that this was the 2014 Cybils winner! Funny and a great mix of text and art, perfect for a beginning reader with a little experience. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781609053505; Published 2014 by Blue Apple; Purchased for the library

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