Honestly, Karla Strambini could have created an entirely wordless picture book that didn't even have a plot and I would have turned the pages just as eagerly - her illustrations are that compelling, that filled with stories of their own. That said, The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty has a wonderful story threaded with themes of creativity, community and creative diversity. I especially love her visual rendering of the phrase, "Two heads are better than one."
Strambini's style of illustration for The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty is evocative of the work of surrealist painter Rene Magritte, inventor Rube Goldberg and picture book illustrator Wayne Anderson. Needless to say, there is A LOT going on on every page and multiple readings will be rewarded.
Mr. Qwerty (a nod to his name comes on the title page where we see a bowler hat-manual-typewriter combo) has ideas that are "far from ordinary." So far from ordinary that he is afraid to share his ideas and inventions with others, worried what they might think. This leaves Mr. Qwerty feeling very alone. Yet, even as Mr. Qwerty goes about his days, the illustrations show other creative thinkers expressing their thoughts.
Finally, one day, Mr. Qwerty's ideas can't be contained under his hat any longer and they take flight, growing into a contraption that lets all thinkers turn ideas into reality and, "the world, from that moment on, was never quite the same." I especially like the note that Strambini ends The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty on, telling readers that Mr. Qwerty was never alone again, "That is, unless he needed to be." There are so many picture books out there that encourage (presumably lonely) kids to be themselves and express themselves and not be scared of what other people think, but there are so few books that remind kids that it is perfectly OK to want to be alone sometimes, too!
Source: Review Copy