Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Week: Once Upon a Banana

I am joining Green Jello's book week a little bit late this week. If you are clicking here from her site looking for reviews, welcome! I have reviewed other children's books in previous posts. You can find those by clicking on the Alphabet Book and Books labels listed on the right side of the screen.

Today I will share a favorite of ours, Once Upon a Banana, by Jennifer Armstrong, illustrated by David Small. The text is very sparse. In fact, if I had not attended a talk David Small gave on the creation of this book, I don't know if I would have even noticed that there is text at all! The author created a poem of sorts out of signs one might see in a city. The poem begins:

Please put litter in its place

No parking in this space

Caution! Wet Paint!

Office of Complaint

David Small's challenge was to develop illustrations to tell a story based on the poem, and he came up with quite an entertaining, crazy scenario filled with plenty of details and action. The text is incorporated into signs in the illustrations, like this:

The story begins right away on the end papers, when a monkey runs away from its street performer owner.

There is an obvious story to follow as the monkey runs away and steals a banana, but many other stories take place in the background. Notice the waiter and the cafe customer in the background. They are never prominently featured, but the observant reader will watch a funny story unfold between those two characters throughout the book.

Cell phone guy appears throughout the first half of the story. He ends up playing a key role in the mayhem, but he's never really the center of attention, either. Disgruntled grocer appears repeatedly, not at all amused by the chaos surrounding him on this particular day.

This is a book a child could spend hours looking at, finding background characters over and over again throughout the book, making up stories about all the people, and watching the monkey's antics cause widespread pandemonium.

The back end papers are an overview illustration of the city block where the story takes place, along with a key to show exactly where all the action happened. That page alone could entertain some kids for quite a while!


wife2abadge said...

I love that book -- David Small is a genius!

Tricia said...

We got it from the library based on your review. My 5yo says "this book is crazy" (in a good way). And his big brothers enjoyed it, too.

besomom said...

Glad your guys liked the book! It's a favorite with my son. He gets a kick at the end when the grocer has the office-of-complaint guy cornered. He also likes all the shaking fists of unhappy motorists. I know from David Small's talk that the technique used to make those fists look like they are shaking is called "blurgit".