Monday, April 2, 2012
Where's Walrus? is one such story. It's playful, fun, clever, and a recent favorite of my two children (ages 4 and 20 months). They both love flipping through the pages on their own, and I love that we can not only read this together, but that my son can read this to my daughter all by himself. (He loves that, too.) The cover page of the book features a headshot of the soon-to-be-elusive walrus, giving us a sly little wink. We know from the get-go, then, that this walrus has a definite plan in mind for what he is going to do today. We then turn to see an overhead view of the zoo, where the other animals are lazing about and the zookeeper is caught taking a snooze at his post. When the walrus decides to make a break for the exit, he leads the zookeeper on a chase throughout the city. With each turn of the page, we see the walrus hiding in a new place or disguise -- in a fountain, helping construction workers, dancing the can-can -- but the puzzled zookeeper does not. My kids delight in the simple fact that they can always spot the walrus but the zookeeper can't, and it naturally leads to an excited chorus of "Where's Walrus?" on each page.
The ending is quite clever (I won't give it away), and the illustrations throughout contain wonderful little subtleties that bring the story to life even more. (My son noticed, for example, that at the beginning of the story when we first meet the walrus, the peacock's feathers are down, the other animals are sleeping, and there are no visitors at the zoo. On the last page, though, the peacock's plumage is on full display, the other animals are awake, and the zoo is full of happy visitors. I had noticed the addition of visitors, but I'm not sure I ever would have picked up on the change in the peacock's tail feathers. I just love seeing what little details kids notice in books, don't you?) The choice of bold colors on neutral backgrounds coupled with simple lines and shapes makes the book very visually appealing, too, especially for younger readers. I'm not quite sure under what genre I should categorize the artistic style -- art deco, maybe? -- but whatever it is, I love its funky, retro feel. (I also think the zookeeper looks just like the Monopoly guy.) If you have a preschooler or younger child and are looking for a great wordless picture book, this is one you won't want to miss.