Michael Buckley, creator of the wildly different (but equally funny) Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S. series for middle grade readers is making his debut as a picture book author. And who better to team up with then the inimitable Dan Santat, who just started this supercool tumblr page? Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show is such a fun picture book to read and, like all the best picture books, it works on more than one level.
From the cover art and the look of determination and glee on the face of Kel Gilligan, you might expect to open this book and find a monkey boy climbing, hanging and jumping off of all sorts of contraband jungle gym stand-ins. Instead, we are treated some great graffiti on the walls, as well as an audience of stuffed toys anticipating the big stunt.
Another turn of the page reveals that Kel is a stunt-toddler of a different color. Instead of giving his parents premature grey hairs and heart attacks, this guy wows crowds by eating broccoli, using the "potty of doom" and getting dressed by himself!!! Kel proves brave over and over again when he attempts to keep himself busy while his mother finishes her phone conversation UNINTERRUPTED, tackles bath time with only ONE assistant (Dad) and goes to sleep in his own bed!!! What I, as the indulgent, adoring parent of three, love most about Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show is the way that Buckley and Santat, with his brilliant illustrations, quietly, non-judgementally, show us how we have created a bit of a cult-of-the-child in the last decade or so. Some of Kel's stunts (eating broccoli in a high chair - big deal, right?) are seen through the lens of a video recorder, something I am sure that many, most of you have recorded in one way or another with your own children, or at least your first borns, anyway. The hallways of Kel's house are lined with photographs of him and family members (grandma, aunts, uncles) always seem to be on hand to witness his next, great first. But, my favorite part of the book comes at the end and is illustrative of something I have both relished and felt equally guilty about with all three of my kids. When Kel finds he isn't quite daredevil enough to pull off the "sleeping in your own bed" stunt, he makes his way to mom and dad's room and settles himself between the two, saying, "For my last stunt I'm going to keep my parents safe from monsters under their bed. Don't worry, mom and dad - there's nothing to be afraid of. I do dangerous stuff like this all the time."
Thank you Michael Buckley and Dan Santat for finding such a fun and funny way to skewer our soft-handed, 21st century style of parenting while also creating a brilliantly fantastic book to read to our cosseted kids!
Michael Buckley preparing for a daredevil stunt...
Source: Review Copy