When I was a bookseller, I remember being so excited when I read Stop Snoring, Bernard! for the first time in 2011. It was a great hit at story time and I fell in love with Zachariah OHora's illustration style and his charming characters. Somehow I missed his next book, No Fits, Nilson, which I still need to get my hands on. Now, author of three books of his own, OHora has also illustrated three picture books for other authors, including Tyrannosaurus Wrecks!, which I loved and reviewed here last year. With his newest book, My Cousin Momo, OHora delivers another wonderful picture book that is a little bit quirky, a tiny bit weird, wonderfully illustrated and filled with characters and places you will fall in love with. Best of all, underneath the dust jacket there is an bonus treat!
Cousin Momo has come for a visit and everyone is excited, especially because Momo is a flying squirrel. How can you not stop and pore over this page for hours? Maybe I have a thing for tree houses. I do still have fond and frightening memories of Miss Suzy, by Miriam Young and illustrated by Arnold Lobel (see below.) The little squirrels' excitement fades a bit as they slowly realize that Momo doesn't speak their language, so to speak. Momo is seems shy and won't show off his flying skills. He has huge black eyes and wears sweatbands. Mom and Dad say to just give him time and make him feel welcome. A little bit easier said than done...
Playing superheroes proves a little weird when Momo shows up as MUFFIN MAN! And Momo has never even heard of Acorn-Pong! He keeps eating the acorns instead of hitting them. And when they play hide-and-seek, Momo stops to take pictures instead of hide. This drives his cousin to mutter, "We should have invited Stinky George instead!" Momo overhears and, tears in his eyes, begins to pack his bag.
If you have parented small children, you know that there is often an adjustment period when getting kids together who haven't seen each other in a while, whether it's a few days, months or years. Memories of this experience with my own kids flooded back to me as I read My Cousin Momo. As the parent of two boys, OHora clearly has experience with this and his story rings true. In a wordless spread, the cousins see Momo packing his bag in tears and realize they have gone too far. They beg Momo not to go and try things his way, which makes for some very funny scenes. When it is finally time for him to go, "Momo did it in his own way." The illustration that goes with this text is awesomely uplifting, literally and figuratively, as Momo is finally flying, heading out into the night sky. The final page shows the squirrel siblings counting the days until Momo returns.
OHora's illustrations are chunky, with thick black lines and have the feel of a linoleum block print. His color palette is cool blues, yellows, oranges and roses and he draws from this for his three books. OHora also seems to enjoy working with the theme of acceptance in his books. Stop Snoring, Bernard!, No Fits, Nilson, and My Cousin Momo all share this, whether it's a snoring otter who bothers everyone, a big blue gorilla with the temper of a toddler or a cousin who has some different ideas about how to have fun, OHora has a true talent when it comes to telling this story and having his characters ultimately show acceptance and understanding.
Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Nesting dolls created by Zachariah OHora!
Written & illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Illustrated by Zachariah OHora:
Source: Review Copy