Mike Reiss and David Catrow appear to be starting an unofficial picture book series of sorts. Wasn’t that long ago that I walked into a bookstore and found myself staring at an odd little concoction by the name of The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln. That flipped the switch on my Weirdo Picture Book o’ Meter for a good week or so. I kept thinking back to that bizarre book with its strangely amusing premise. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The story was fun but everything you needed to know was in the title. Now Reiss and Catrow have a new "The Boy Who" book out, and at first you might accuse it of the Lincoln book’s crime. Take a gander at the cover of The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share and there sits as wizened, cantankerous, sour-faced a boy as has ever graced the cover of a tale for children. I admit it. It was love at first sight. Somehow this book manages to tell a story in rhyme (that most loathsome of storytelling techniques) that works in everything from toy trains to a blow-up Frankenstein doll. Most excellent.
Edward has a lot of toys. Tons really. And when his sister attempts to play with them, Edward appears out of nowhere to tell her, "IT’S MINE!" in no uncertain terms. Even his Slinky is off-limits, and in a fit of greedy pique the boy barricades himself behind his toys, a crazed smile upon his face. Of course, trapped within his own toys, Edward’s mother doesn’t see the boy at all… so she gives all the fudge she has to Claire. In a change of heart a now downtrodden Edward concedes that Claire may play with his toys if she likes. "And Claire, who did not hold a grudge, helped him out and gave him fudge." In the last panel the two peddle off into the sunset, Edward on his bike pulling Claire in his wagon behind.
The Grinch has nothing on Edward. Nothing. And illustrator David Catrow could give even the good Doctor of Seuss a run for his money when it comes to tight-faced scrooges. Actually, there are several times in this book when Catrow appears to be conjuring up Mr. Geisel. There’s something about the way Edward’s pinky lifts up delicately when he plucks his wizard’s hat from his sister’s head. Something about the ape-like curve of his upper lip. I can’t pinpoint it, of course, but Seuss would have found much to love in this book as well. Even Claire is a Little Cindy Lou Who of a gal, all sweetness and light and forgiveness. I’m sure that Catrow has been compared to Seuss time and time again, but this time the similarities seem intentional.
Ironically, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share is coming out at about the same time as David Shannon’s similarly toy-centric title Too Many Toys. Both books harbor a love of classic games and puzzles too. You won’t find any Gameboys or Dance Dance Revolution sets clogging up these kids’ closets. No, clearly the artists are fans of Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Legos, and Slinkys galore. And frankly, that makes the most sense. It’s not as if these toys don’t sell these days anyway, and there’s no faster method of dating yourself than to include the latest gizmos and gadgets on your pages. This is not to say that Catrow doesn’t include some slightly newer items, as with skateboards and the like. But the exclusion of the electronic world is done with a clear intent. It may be fantastical, but there are probably a lot of parents out there who’d love to have a kid like Edward, completely content with his rocking horse and jack-in-the-box.
Author Mike Reiss gets away with his rhymes, thank heavens. Catrow tends to be paired with authors that know their way around a pleasant bit of well-scanned verse (example: Karen Beaumont and her lovely I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!). The story works out well enough. The Edward’s change of heart does seem to come out of left field, though, which is odd. And on a personal level, I was a little disappointed to find Edward’s humanity at the end of the book because I think a series of picture books in which the boy works through several of the Seven Deadly Sins would be divine. Clearly we’ve already covered Greed. How about Sloth, as in The Boy Who Wouldn’t Play Outside or Gluttony in The Boy Who Wouldn’t Stop Eating? I just find his unappealing nature so supremely appealing.
But come on! Greedy little boys that resemble dried limes make for fabulous storytimes. Pair this pup with Shannon’s Too Many Toys and you’ll have one heckuva storytime. Reiss and Catrow are just about hitting their stride these days. A couple more books together and we’ll see just how original and goofy they truly can get. Greed never looked so good.
Misc: Want to see if you’re gonna like it? Look inside!