I am SO excited to be reviewing David Wiesner's new book Mr. Wuffles! for so many reasons! While this is my first stand alone review of one of Mr. Wiesner's incredible books, he was the inspiration for an article I wrote a few years ago, How to Read a Book Without Words (Out Loud), and has long (as in, before I had kids...) been a favorite of mine for his painterly, richly detailed style and his inimitably imaginative storytelling, which I think is even more challenging in the absence of words. Wiesner is one of two people to win THREE Caldecott Medals (Tuesday, 1992, The Three Pigs, 2002, and Flotsam, 2007) and two Caldecott Honors (Free Fall, 1989, and Sector 7, 2000.) This summer I had the gift of hearing Wiesner give a keynote talk at the 2013 SCBWI Annual Summer Conference where he talked about the process of creating Mr. Wuffles! which began in 1993 with this cover for the magazine Cricket.
Wiesner shares his creative process for Mr. Wuffles! in images and words on his kid-friendly website. Wiesner has a second website that features his portfolio, which is worth checking out if you love his work as much as I do.
Originally, Wiesner started his story with the aliens in a sandbox being discovered by a girl, but couldn't figure out what crisis of their story would be. Ten years later and a few more failed iterations of the story and, in 2011 a drawing of a spaceship in his sketchbook tied it all together for Wiesner. And the crisis is clear almost from the start of the story. Mr. Wuffles is a discerning cat who has lost all interest in his toys, which still have the price tags on them, if he ever had any to begin with. But, there's something about that new toy with all the bumps on it...
Mr. Wuffles wants to play, but the aliens inside the new cat toy, I mean spaceship, need a part to repair it and escape.
The aliens get some help from an a surprising corner where they also find some ancient art that that helps them repair their ship and dodge Mr. Wuffles.
With his characteristic attention to detail, Wiesner creates a magical world that is grounded in reality, as he does with so many of his books. One moment you are on the floor with Mr. Wuffles as he bats his toy around, looking every bit the cat, then you are inside an alien spaceship and communicating in another language. One thing I especially love about Wiesner is that, if he is going to have aliens talking in one of his books, he is going to develop a language and consult a linguist who helps him to construct the alien speech. You can try to decode their language on their own or use the key that Wiesner provides on his website, below.
Hopefully in these paragraphs I have convinced you that the worlds that David Wiesner creates in his books are definitely worth visiting and revisiting. Flotsam, my favorite, is like opening a jewel box - you can stare at the beauty within it for hours, over and over and be transported to other worlds at the same time. All of Wiesner's books do this in one way or another and if you've never read any of his books before, I'm a little bit jealous of you. I would love the chance to discover them all over again for the first time!
A few more of David Wiesner's books . . . I love them all, but my favorites are Flotsam, The Three Pigs, June 29, 1999 (I remember reading this book at story time at the bookstore on this very date!) and Tuesday.
Source: Review Copy