Children's Corner: 'Mr. Wuffles' and 'Daisy Gets Lost' both charm
March 3, 2014 7:49 PM
"Mr. Wuffles" by David Wiesner earned a Caldecott Honor in January.
By Karen MacPherson / Scripps Howard News Service
Two picture book masters -- David Wiesner and Chris Raschka -- have two books out that will enchant young readers.
Both illustrators have won the Caldecott Medal, given annually by the American Library Association to the best-illustrated children's book. In fact, Mr. Wiesner is one of only two people -- Marcia Brown is the other -- to have ever won three Caldecott Medals.
Mr. Wiesner won Caldecott Medals for "Tuesday" (1992), "The Three Pigs" (2002) and "Flotsam" (2007). He also has won Caldecott Honors, akin to a silver Olympics Medal, for "Free Fall," "Sector 7" and, earlier this year, "Mr. Wuffles."
Mr. Raschka, meanwhile, has captured two Caldecott Medals, in 2006 for "The Hello, Goodbye Window" and in 2012 for "A Ball for Daisy." He also has one Caldecott Honor, for "Yo! Yes?"
* As Mr. Wiesner's hilarious "Mr. Wuffles" (Houghton Mifflin, $17.99, ages 4-8) opens, Mr. Wuffles' owner is dangling yet another new toy for the black-and-white feline's playing pleasure. Mr. Wuffles isn't interested and just stalks away, prompting his owner to cry out in frustration, "Oh, Mr. Wuffles!"
But Mr. Wuffles soon will get more entertainment than he expected. As he struts past a line of cat toys, one of them -- a tiny silver spaceship -- suddenly erupts with noise. Inside the spaceship, little green aliens, clad in long robes, are celebrating a safe landing in a language that Mr. Wiesner portrays in geometric symbols.
The hubbub attracts Mr. Wuffles, who suddenly looms over the spaceship and terrifies the aliens. Finally finding a toy that piques his interest, the cat rolls the spaceship around on the floor, puts an edge into his mouth, carries it around the room and then finally lies down to rest with it. Meanwhile, the aliens inside are tossed all about, and a crucial piece of equipment, which allows the craft to fly, is broken.
Undaunted, the aliens determine to find some way to fix it, venturing out of the spaceship when it appears Mr. Wuffles has fallen asleep. But their movements catch his eye, and the aliens have to dash for safety under a nearby radiator. There, they meet a ladybug and some ants, which at first are unfriendly -- Mr. Wiesner shows their insects' language as a bunch of black marks filling a speech bubble -- until they realize that they all have a common foe in Mr. Wuffles.
Uniting forces, the insects help the aliens find materials to fix the broken spaceship part and then eventually help them fly past Mr. Wuffles and out of an open window. The last scene shows the insects clad in robes left behind by their alien visitors, newly energized for their next battle against the feline.
Mr. Wiesner's fantastical and funny tale is mostly told in a series of panels that move the story along at a perfect pace. Known for telling (nearly) wordless tales, Mr. Wiesner this time has fun adding words in languages that he has created and that young readers will doubtless try to find a way to voice.
His illustrations, done in watercolor and India ink, are typically spectacular; lush with color, they also display his wry sense of humor and endless imagination. And check out the art on the "hard" binding of the book under the paper cover, for -- as always -- Mr. Wiesner uses every part of a book to advance his story.
This is a book that readers, both young and old, can pore over -- and chuckle at -- again and again.
* Daisy is a lovable, energetic little dog who adores her red ball. In her first adventure, "A Ball for Daisy," Mr. Raschka vividly depicted both her bond with her red ball and how she is utterly bereft when another dog pops it.
But Daisy isn't without a ball for long, and as "A Ball for Daisy" concluded, she's enjoying a new one -- this one is blue -- given to her by the owner of the dog who popped her red one.
That blue ball leads Daisy into her next adventure, "Daisy Gets Lost" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $17.99, ages 3-6). The book begins with Daisy and her young owner playing with the blue ball in a park.
As Daisy runs to fetch the ball just thrown by her mistress, she spies a squirrel gathering nuts. The ball is left behind as she races to try to catch the squirrel, which eventually runs up a tree, leaving Daisy panting underneath.
Daisy suddenly realizes she's run so far into a thicket of trees that she's lost. Meanwhile, her owner realizes that her dog has been gone an awful long time fetching the ball.
Each gives voice to their concern, with the young owner yelling "Daisy!" and Daisy yodeling a mournful "Aaawooooooo." Eventually, they are happily reunited in a scene in which Mr. Rascha mischievously shows the squirrel gazing down on girl and dog.
It's a simple and basically wordless story, but it's superbly told by Mr. Raschka, who uses a combination of small panels and double-page spreads to tell it. Using watercolor, gouache and ink, his long loose brushstrokes underline the emotional core of "Daisy Gets Lost," a core that will be keenly felt by all young readers who have ever misplaced -- or worried about misplacing -- their parents.
Reach Karen MacPherson, children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park (Md.) Library, at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.
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