I never realized there was a wealth of "reversal of fortune" picture books until Good News Bad News by Jeff Mack showed up in my mail box. Reading this wonderful new book inspired me to visit my own bookshelf and write a group review of all the fantastic picture books about assumptions and perspectives. Besides being just plain fun, these books can be the start of an interesting conversation with your kids about how they see the world.
In Good News Bad News, the new book from author and illustrator Jeff Mack, good natured Rabbit wants nothing more than to cheer up his friend Rat with a picnic.
Ever the optimist, Rabbit meets rain with an umbrella. When the wind whips the umbrella (and Rat) into a tree, Rabbit rejoices that it is an apple tree. When Rat bites into the apple with a worm in it, Rabbit pulls out a delicious cake. When a bee lands on the cake, Rabbit is there with a swatter. Unfortunately, Rat ends up covered in pink frosting.
This goes on for a while, back and forth, "Good News" and "Bad News" being the only words in the book - and making this a FANTASTIC book to give an emerging reader a sense of accomplishment - until Rat loses it.
Devastated, Rabbit finally breaks down and cries. The clouds part, the sun shines through and Rat has an idea. He returns with a picnic basket of his own asking, "Good news?" to which Rabbit responds, "Very good news."
I first learned about the wonderful Remy Charlip and his brilliant picture book Fortunately while reading the author's notes in The Invention of Hugo Cabret when it came out in 2007. Several of Charlip's books were favorites of Selznick's as a child and his appreciation of the author/illustrator inspired me to read his books. Fortunately became an instant favorite at home and at story time at the bookstore. Fortunately begins, "Fortunately one day, Ned got a letter that said, 'Please come to a surprise party.'" The first page, in which something fortunate occurs, is in color. The next page, which reads, "But unfortunately, the party was in Florida and he was in New York." As Ned makes his way to the party, his fortunes reverse over and over and in fantastic and funny ways. Published in 1964, Charlip's book is timeless. And, happily, it is available in paperback! I suggest you get one right away and be prepared to read it over and over. I even had a mom at story time tell me that they turned this book into a game that they played in the car, one person saying something fortunate with the other turning it into an unfortunate situation and back again.
For those of you who are fans of Selznick and his amazing book, I just have to share this nifty little tidbit. Below are pictures of Remy Charlip, Georges Méliès, the filmmaker and central character of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and Selznick's illustration of Papa Georges.
That's Good! That's Bad by Margery Cuyler and David Catrow, first published in 1993 and now available in paperback, follows the pattern of Fortunately, putting the main character in a series of dangerous (or not) situations as he makes his way through the jungle after a balloon carries him out of the zoo and away from his parents. Catrow's illustrations are wonderfully wacky and colorful and Cuyler's writing is filled with all sorts of onomatopoetic words that you will have a fantastic time reading out loud. That's Good! That's Bad is a story time staple of mine.
Suddenly! by the superb Colin McNaughton (author and illustrator of the excellent Captain Abdul's Pirate School series of picture books) was first published in 1995 and is available in paperback. McNaughton tweaks the formula a bit. Preston, a charming little pig, is just trying to get the shopping done for his mother but, unbeknownst to him, the Big Bad Wolf is out to get him at every turn. Fortunately, Preston has very good luck. Nevertheless, McNaughton does a fine job of creating suspense and tension on every page, the pulling his little pig out of the jaws of danger, sometimes literally, as the illustrations below demonstrate.
For those of you who were worried, Preston is saved from the dripping jaws of the wolf when Billy the Bully shoves past him and zips down the slide. The wolf does suffer quite a bit of abuse in Suddenly!...
Purchased: Fortunately, That's Good That's Bad, Suddenly!