By Lilli Carré
Toon Books, $12.95
Level one (Kindergarten through first grade)
Regular readers will have noticed a very distinct formula to Toon Books, particularly those for the earliest readers: Simple narratives straddling the media of picture books and comics, by world-class cartoonists working to produce books that can be just as easily enjoyed by the youngest readers or the oldest comics aficionados.
That much about each new release is predictable, but that’s about all that is, because those world-class cartoonists tend to bring world-class imaginations to their efforts.
Lilli Carré, a filmmaker, fine artist, illustrator, and cartoonist responsible for such works as Tales of Woodsman Pete and The Lagoon, creates a somewhat simple loop-de-looping narrative, a certain segment of which is cut-and-pasted from her imagination onto paper, so that readers see a single cycle of the story but have the opportunity to imagine what came before and what will come afterwards, which will involve a somewhat complicated chain of events to link the various marchers in the titular parade.
Tippy, the little girl who stars in the book, is awakened by her shouting mother, who is distressed to find a veritable menagerie in Tippy’s bedroom: A large snake hiding under the bed, a pig under the blanket, a songbird nesting on Tippy’s head, a horse leaning its head in through the window, and still more animals of various kinds, with a mess of feathers, leaves, twigs, bugs and miscellaneous items littering the floor.
Tippy has no idea how the animals and their mess got in her bedroom, as the last thing she remembers is falling asleep. This she explains as night falls again, and she begins sleep-walking and sleep-talking, narrating her actions, “Maybe last night I walked out the door… and down the road…”
The bulk of the book follows the sleep-walking, sleep-talking Tippy as she wanders around, attracting one animal after another to her. For example, first a crab pinches the edge of her nightdress and scuttles behind her. At one point, it plucks a flower, and the flower attracts a bumblebee, and the bee attracts a frog, and on and on until another “parade” of entirely different animals is cluttering up her bedroom, which she and her mother spent the whole day cleaning up after the last night’s parade.
The book is in landscape format, resembling a gigantic comic strip when opened, although the there are never more than three panels per page, and many “panels” are splash pages, filling up the whole page like picture book illustrations.
Carré’s illustrations are simple, leaving no clues to nail down or time or place for the story (and thus giving it a timeless, classic feel), and she draws beautifully simplified animals with a sort of logo-like perfection. The nicely chosen colors distinguish time of day, with Tippy awakening in a world of reds and pinks and blacks and whites, while her parades take place when all is blue and gray and black and white.
Presumably, Tippy and her mom will spend the day getting rid of this new batch of animals and re-cleaning her room, and the cycle will start all over with a new batch of animals. Unless Tippy’s mom invests in some serious locks for the front door and Tippy’s bedroom window, of course. But what would be the fun in that?