Saturday, November 9, 2013

30 Days of Picture Books - Platypus by Chris Riddell

It's Day 2 of our 30 Days of Picture Books. What do you love about picture books? I'd hazard a guess that if you asked 100 different people, you'd get 100 different answers. For us it's more than one thing, and each book we read brings out a different aspect of the format that we enjoy. But I have to say that we are often bowled away by the sheer charm of picture books, especially those that are just bubbling over with wit.

And that pretty well sums up today's pick, Platypus by Chris Riddell. I don't know how I missed this title (or this series, because there are two other titles featuring the beguiling main character) until now, but I was happy to stumble upon it one day at work. Of course it was the cover that got me -- how could you not be totally taken by this cute little guy -- but the story instantly won me over, and Sprout as well. In fact, the first time we read it we had to reread it twice more, and then Sprout asked for it at bedtime. If that's not a ringing endorsements, friends, I don't know what is.

Beyond the darling illustrations, which are bound to tickle even the youngest readers' fancy, the plot is a total winner for us. Riddell knows his craft, and he keeps the storyline uncluttered by diving right into a day in the life of Platypus. We learn that our hero is a collector, and this day he's out to add to his collection. But nothing he finds seems quite right, until he happens upon a lovely curly shell in his bucket. What fun! Only pretty soon Platypus figures out that something's up with this perfect souvenir, and readers will love happening on the answer to the mystery along with Platypus.

I mentioned that it's the charm of books like this that we especially appreciate, and I think that's where the true craft of Platypus comes through. Because it's not just the twist of the story, or the cheerfully adorable visual style Riddell employs. No, the charm is in the way Platypus is a preschool-age everyman, and that's something that parents, teachers, and even kids themselves will pick up. Platypus' behavior rings true with how a young child would behave, faced with the same set of circumstances - and in that facet comes not only the humor, but the immediate pleas to "read it again!".

Platypus by Chris Riddell, published by Harcourt

(note: the Platypus books are, sadly, tough to find -- so put these titles on your list for the library or the used bookstore!)

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