Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review - "Carnivores"

Animals eat other animals.  It’s a fact of life.  And for many, many years, it’s a fact of life that children’s literature largely ignored.  Until now.  Now we have an influx of picture books about creatures eating creatures, ushered in my Jon Klassen’s wonderful, I Want My Hat Back (though I’m sure it was not the first, just the first that comes to my mind).  There was Klassen’s undersea follow up, This is Not My Hat, Mo Willems’ That is Not a Good Idea! (oops, spoiler alert!) and now we have Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat with Carnivores.  No more beating around the bush, it’s right there in the title.

Lion, great white shark and timber wolf are masters of their domains, but are getting discouraged by all the stink eyes, horror stories and fairy tales that paint them in a bad light.  They decide to ban together in a support group and try to figure out how to clean up their image.  Going vegetarian doesn’t help.  Great white shark doesn’t like the taste of seaweed, bark keeps getting stuck in lion’s teeth, and no matter how hard he tries, timber wolf keeps finding bunnies hiding in the berry bushes.  Losing hope, the trio turn to “the oldest and wisest carnivore”, the great horned owl, who dispenses some words of wisdom.  “I’m not bad.  I’m a carnivore.  Eating meat is just what I do.”  With this mantra in place, lion, great white shark and timber wolf return to their lives as predators with relish.

I love a picture book that makes me laugh.  I Want My Hat Back made me laugh hysterically for quite some time before I could contain myself.  Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Santat have echoed that feat with this fantastically twisted and laugh-out-loud hilarious book.  All the jokes, both verbal and visual, land right on their target (my favorite was the two-page spread revealing the owl’s greatest contribution).  It’s a great lesson about being true to your natural self, wrapped in a funny story that is sure to make kids grin and parents cringe (unless, like me, they find an illustrated picture of a wolf with a mouth full of bunny to be hysterical).  

This book book-talks itself.  I love it when my work is done for me!

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, ill. by Dan Santat
2013, Chronicle Books
Library copy

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