Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A few books about sweaters for the brisk weather...

LESTER'S DREADFUL SWEATERS (reviewed on July 1, 2012)
Cousin Clara, who may or may not be related to the rest of the family, knits horrid sweaters at a breakneck speed. Clara, her tiny hat perched on her impossibly oval head, an innocent-looking basket of knitting in hand, arrives ready to recover from an unfortunate crocodile attack. So begins this over-the-top story of lost-and-found collections, journals of “Suspicious Stuff Starting with C” and fantastic sweaters. Clara does not knit run-of-the-mill ordinary cardigans and pullovers. Starting with a “less-than-pleasant yellow and smothered with purple pom-poms” hooded number, Clara insists on cranking out one absurd creation after another. Wearing these monstrosities to school proves embarrassing for Lester. After each humiliating day, the sweater of the day ends up shrunken, shredded, unraveled, pecked to pieces or stolen. Each colored-pencil illustration cranks up the dark humor, culminating with Lester covered in dripping red yarn, scissors in hand, while Clara wickedly smiles at the crime scene. Each detailed spread is filled with creepy shadowing and fabulous eye contact among the many characters. Lively writing is peppered with clever alliteration and wordplay. Lucky for Lester, a troupe of clowns appreciates Clara’s creations.
Children forced to wear horrid clothing made by well-meaning relatives will laugh in sympathy with Lester. If Edward Gorey and Polly Horvath had a literary love child, this would be it. (Picture book. 5-9)

THE HUEYS IN THE NEW SWEATER (reviewed on April 15, 2012)
The clothes make the Huey in Jeffers’ picture-book ode to nonconformity.
In what promises to be the first in a series about the Hueys, little egg-shaped creatures with just lines for limbs, the cast of characters are indistinguishable from one another until a fellow named Rupert knits himself an orange sweater. The text plainly states that “most of the other Hueys were horrified!” when Huey strolls by in his jaunty new duds. And the subsequent line, “Rupert stood out like a sore thumb,” is delightfully understated, since his oval form wrapped up in an orange sweater looks rather sore-thumb–like. Then, another Huey named Gillespie decides that “being different was interesting,” and he knits himself a sweater just like Rupert’s. This gets the proverbial ball of yarn rolling, and, in scenes reminiscent of TheSneetches, soon many, many Hueys are knitting and donning identical orange sweaters in order to “be different too!” In Jeffers’ expert hands, the message of respecting individuality comes through with a light touch as Rupert concludes the story by deciding to shake things up again as he dons a hat. “And that changed everything,” reads the closing text, with a page turn revealing a little parade of Hueys decked out in a broad array of different clothing, from feather boas to pirate hats.
A joyful take on a serious lesson. (Picture book. 3-6)

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