Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Foxy New Picture Book

Today, I’m posting about my first advanced reader copy that I received from the Texas Library Association Conference 2011. Foxy and Egg (Holiday House, 2011) is a charming picture book by Alex T. Smith. Don’t you just LOVE the cover? Are you curious about the Egg character? Can the author/illustrator make Egg an interesting character? Let’s find out.

The book begins like this...

Of all the suspicious-looking houses in all the deserted woods in all the world, he had to roll up to hers…
Foxy Dubois was utterly charming and always kind to strangers, so she invited Egg in for a bite to eat.

The beginning introduces both characters and gives us the setting. The author chooses words like “suspicious-looking” and “had to roll up to” to create an aura of mystery and intrigue. Aren’t you curious to know what is going to happen next? The author is planting words that suggest a scheme is about to hatch, yes?

While Foxy skipped off to the kitchen, Egg rocked and rolled around the grand house.
“You have some interesting paintings,” shouted Egg.
But Foxy wasn’t listening. She was too busy cooking up a perfectly cunning plan…

Aha! We were right. A plan is about to hatch! What a great way to hook the reader and draw them into the story. Doesn’t that next line just beg you to turn the page? I don’t want to reveal all the juicy details but let’s just say this story delights the reader with a surprising ending. 

A few things I really like about this book are:

• It’s a fun read-aloud and the illustrations are bright and appealing and perfect for the intended audience (ages 4 – 8). 
• The story reminded me of an updated version of the classic fairytale Little Red Riding Hood except instead of a girl and a wolf, we have a fox and an egg. What words leap to mind when you think of a fox? Clever. Cunning. Sophisticated. How about when you think of an egg? Dull. Boring. Innocent. Definitely not very threatening, right? The author uses conceived perceptions to set-up the story and deliver the unexpected. He writes with intention. Chooses his characters for a reason. And makes the unimaginable seem believable.
• Every word is chosen carefully to reveal character, move the story forward and add suspense. 
• The ending is satisfying, surprising and delightful! 

Kirkus Review said “expert comic timing” and “Delicious, for all that it’s something of a literary hors d’ouevre.” 

This picture book has my seal of approval! If you like the humor found in Keiko Kasza’s or Jon Scieszka’s books, you’ll devour this gem of a story, too.

Next week, Alex T. Smith drops by to chat and share insights. You don’t want to miss this interview.

Have you studied any picture books lately? Gleam anything from them that has helped your writing? 

If so, I’d love to hear it. If not, I challenge you to pick up a few and read them with a writer’s eye. Study them for: character development, plot construction, pacing and rhythm, hook at the beginning, rule of three, conflict, and surprise ending. Just a few things to keep in mind while you read.

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