The Giant Ball of String, written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert
The Giant Ball of String, was written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert in 2002. Unlike Haystack, Desert Town, Mountain Town, River Town and Prairie Town, which observe one thing over the course of a year, The Giant Ball of String is part of Geisert's Pig Universe. The fantastic experiences of Geisert's intrepid, problem solving pigs, (Ice, Hogwash, Lights Out, etc.) are always fascinating, humorous and illuminating. Geistert's artistic style, to me, feels like a cross between that of Albrecht Dürer, the fifteenth century German painter and printmaker, and Richard Scary - an intensive artistic process combined with a curious, visual narrative. The illustrations for Geisert's picture books are always made from etchings, in fact, one of his books is called The Etcher's Studio and follows a young boy and his grandfather as they prepare for an end of the year sale. Because of the complexity of this process, he has a solid story in mind before he beings the artwork. Geister's perspective is always one of curiosity, he wants to know how things work or how you can get from point A to point B to make something work on the page, even if it couldn't work in the real world.
The Giant Ball of String begins, "Rumpus Ridge was a small mining town in the wilderness of Wisconsin. It was a hardscrabble place, but the community took great pride in its giant ball of string." One fateful night a thunderstorm and a flood send the ball of string and its gazebo floating downriver to the town of Cornwall.
The Cornwallians "knew the string was from Rumpus Ridge. Everyone in the mining region knew that. They decided to keep it anyway. They hoped it would bring their town fame." The Cornwallians used every inch of the town square they could to unroll that wet ball of string and dry it out. The youngsters of Rumpus Ridge take to the river in search of their ball of string. When they find it in Cornwall they hatch a secret, ingenious, complex plan to get it back. Some pigs begin digging a tunnel, some carry materials to the dam, others build a sluice and a water wheel. All of this planing is accompanied by detailed, fantastic illustrations. When everything is in place, the little pigs have a hearty meal and settle in for a good night's sleep around the campfire (yet another great illustration.)
The next day, as noon approaches, the plan is set into action beginning with a magnifying glass and a box of dynamite and ending with an amazing Rube Goldberg contraption that floods the town of Cornwall with dandelion fluff allowing the Rumpus Ridge pigs to reclaim their string (in yet another ingenious way) without their knowledge. The book ends, "The youngsters of Rumpus Ridge had a glorious homecoming. Invitations were sent far and wide, and a large party was held celebrating the return of the string." Suspenseful, tactical, resourceful, clever and creative are all words I would use to describe the books that are part of Arthur Geisert's Pig Universe.
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