When a child is born it gets to hear all sorts of interesting words from day one. These are, ideally, almost always good words to know. Then the child starts to get a little autonomy, a little movement and what happens? Suddenly the world is one great big interesting playground but all the child hears is "No no no no no". It’s such a limited syllable, and worse still it prevents a whole lot of potential fun. So imagine the sheer joy a child must feel when it begins to get a grasp on language. And what word does it cling to in those early years? Oh, how the tables have turned, dear parents! It seems the student has become the master. Small children are creatures of black and white extremes. They either want something or they don’t. And while the slippery syllables of a sonorous "yes" are sometimes a bit difficult to say, "no" is easy. "No" is quick and to the point. "No" is suddenly a word that they have full mastery of. Now Mr. Warburton, animator and newbie picture book creator, has tapped into that very human moment. The point in our lives when we are able to tell the universe that whatever it has in store for us is unacceptable. No. No. One thousand times no.
Noah, half-circle diaper firmly in place, is told politely by his mother, "All right, Noah, dear. It’s time to leave." Leave? Get out of town, mama. This boy is having none of it. He starts of with an unequivocal, "No." This turns into five more "no"s of varying degrees of wretchedness. When that doesn’t convince his mom it’s time to bring out the big guns. The languages start coming out. Nyet. O-nay. Wihya. Tsha. And before you know it the pages are turning into box after box of Noah’s remarkable ways of being negative. From a no nonsense "uh-uh-uh" to a cheery "’a'ole" on a surfboard. After veritable chorus of no in every conceivable language his mother at last concedes. "Fine! If you don’t want to go to the playground you can stay here." Shocked, Noah does a 180 with a two-page, "YES!". Euphoria is short lived. Says mom, "Lovely. So let’s get your pants on then." Noah eyes the audience askance. Final shot: Noah and mom enter the playground. Pants? Nowhere in sight. Front and endpapers define each of the "No" sections and say where they come from.
Mr. Warburton is a visitor from the animation side of things. You have perhaps seen his creation on Cartoon Network, Codename Kids Next Door. Some of that seeps into the book itself. It takes a read or two before you realize that the face drawn on the front of the diaper (it IS a diaper, right?) tends to mimic whatever expression Noah has on his face at a given time. Also, as spouts his endless monologue of the negative, he is often accompanied by a blankie with the head of a chicken. A rooster, to be exact. Upon closer inspection it may even be a four-legged octopus with a fowl head. Whatever it is, it makes one thing very clear: chickens are funny. And chicken blankets? Even funnier. Finally, I’m enough of an old-timey comic fan that I can also appreciate that when Noah is surprised by his mother’s actual plans for leaving the home, he displays his surprise with a good old-fashioned exclamation point over the head. Hey, man. If it’s good enough for Blondie it’s good enough for us.
As I read through the book the first time, I wondered if I should consider getting offended. It’s not the most ridiculous question. Throughout the book Noah appropriates different cultures and languages, and if that was done insensitively then it could be a real problem. I mean, he puts on a Zulu mask and says "Tsha". But the nice thing about Noah is that he’s an equal opportunity no-er. It could have been so very easy for Mr. Warburton to play it safe and just have Noah do some nos (I can’t believe it, but I only just now got the joke in No-ah’s name) from European countries. Maybe with an Asian word thrown in for spice. Instead, he goes absolutely everywhere. From the Osage Indians to the people of Tibet, from Japanese to Old Norse to Tagalog. The result is a book that rather than offending, raises some interest in the different ways in which everyone says that one word we all have in common. For that matter, I appreciate that the endpaper glossary of words distinguishes between the "no" said by the Aborigines of Northern Australia, the Hopi tribe, Mandarin Chinese, or Arabic that happens to use Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Again, a lazier author/illustrator would have gone the easy route. My sole regret is that many a library will paste the bookflaps down over a lot of these definitions. Not much to be done about that, though.
It’s fluffy, sure, no question. But fun fluff. Kids will dig the theme and the brightly color, thick-lined art. Adults will have fun reading the various incarnations of "No" (and some may feel desirous of the mom’s awesome boots). And any parent who has ever had a stubborn child wield that weapon of a word in their direction will understand where both Noah and Mr. Warburton are coming from. If our kids were as well equipped as Noah, you can bet they’d convey their refusals as eloquently as he. Like an opposite of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (now YOU are the one being told "no") it shares with that book a memorable plot device. 1,000 Times No = 1,000 Times You Betcha.
On shelves now.
Other Blog Reviews:
Other Online Reviews:
- Get a special sneak peek of the rough draft of the sequel to this book, which shall be called 1,000 Times Why.
- Give a glance to the book itself, just for fun.
- The nice thing about being an animator? When you want to create a promo for your book, it’s gonna look real purdy.
- And to top it all off, here’s an interview with Mr. Warburton about the book.
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