Sir PBJ: Lawn to Lawn

He’s back – Sir PBJ has been asked to have a look at LAWN TO LAWN, written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.

Publisher: Alfred A.Knopf, 2010
Age Level: 5-8
Opening: “I can’t wait to move to our new home!” said Pearl.
Betty, Flo, Norm and Jack weren’t so sure.
They’d never even left the lawn before.
But they all loved Pearl, and where she went, they wanted to go too.


The illustrations magically take me back to the neighborhood where I grew up, and the idea of lawn ornaments coming to life felt like a fantasy about to be fulfilled. Here is Sir PBJ and his review :

Can we pass this book on to the Royal Bookshelf? Let’s see. In the publishing credit info, the summary states: ‘When their family moves away and leaves them behind, a group of lawn ornaments sets out on a dangerous trek across the country to try to find them.’ That’s what happens, but I can’t see why these ornaments want to follow the careless family that leaves them, among other things, like the map, behind. Is it because they’re leaving a Levittown and heading to Ritzy Estates on the other side of the country where HOAs prevent such adornments? As the pages turn, I can’t seem to follow a story, and by the third page I feel thrust into a new one – or not? Besides guessing that Flo is the flamingo I don’t know which ornament is which. I commend the ornaments’ comaraderie, their bravery and loyalty – but not their logic. I am also confused by the otherwise beautiful endpapers, because a number of elements never appear in the story.

I feel the ornaments need a better reason why we should wish them well trek to find Pearl. The text continuity needs smoothing out, and the title should fulfill its promise more closely – from lawn to lawn. There would be no need to bound from one geographic location to another and confuse young readers. But hark! The renderings are crisp, and the colors well-balanced and inviting. better luck next time!

Sir PBJ: 10 Hungry Rabbits

Sir PBJ is a HUGE fan of Anita Lobel’s artwork and the illustrations in 10 HUNGRY RABBITS: Counting and Color Concepts, do not fall short.

“In fact the story combines learning to count and identify colors beautifully. It is the book’s design that disappoints, and my criticism begins with the book’s size. The format (7″x8.75″) is TOO SMALL to convey the richness of texture and color of the gouache and watercolor paintings. Unfortunately it does not end there: although Bodoni is a beloved font (yes, faithful knights in the realm of children’s books do note of the style and appearance of printed matter!) it does not read well in smaller sizes, and I can barely decipher the publisher’s information.”

What does Sir PBJ recommend?

“Of course this book must be added to the Royal Library. How can one resist these lovely rabbits digging, picking and yanking? Yank is such a such a delightful verb! We can only hope that Lady Lobel’s next volume be given a little more consideration.”

Please click on the cover image to link to Rain Makes Applesauce, a blog I have just recently discovered with fantastic story time suggestions!

Sir PBJ: Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey

This is a sad job for Sir PBJ today, because the original Traction Man is Here! is simply irresistible! As is Traction Man meets Turbo Dog. All three written and illustrated by the very talented Mini Grey. But as it is his duty, Sir PBJ, the ‘Royal Test-Reader’ must inform his (very) young Queen of book elements gone wrong, and offer constructive suggestions. It is with heavy heart that he informs us of his findings:

“Ah, Traction Man. I still find the drawing technique and style superb, the sense of color, texture and depth exquisite. I love an action-packed adventure as any knight of the realm, but I found some spreads, especially the end papers, too busy even for my eager eyes. The character has such magnetic charm and the story plot is unique, but with the text displayed on collage-paper scraps often dispersed in a manner that adds confusion to the illustrations spreads, my desire to read all the bits waned. Occasionally I found a page to unwind and enjoy the view, but others reminded me of the feeling you get when the undertow catches your feet and you lose orientation for a minute before you break the surface and can breathe again. I recommend more negative space be added to the compositions and the text placed with more cohesion. This is my humble opinion.”

Sir PBJ: Charming Opal

Sir PBJ strikes again! (More details on the first post). This time with With Toot & Puddle/Charming Opal by Hollie Hobbie, Little Brown and Company. 2003. And Opal really is charming! The cover is striking with it’s strongly contrasted black background and apple-green grass and Opal, cousin to Puddle the pig, decked out in puffed sleeves, an oversized bonnet and mischievous gleam in her eye.

But it seems the cover was reconsidered and rolled out again in 2011 with one of the inner illustrations. A bit more personality? Perhaps.

Hollie Hobbie’s master watercolors are stunning. As we are introduced to our main character stepping off the train at Woodcock Paddock Station the loose yet fine details are not photo-realistic, but convince us just the same of the normalcy of a well-dressed pig among humans stepping onto the sunlit platform. Each perfectly composed illustration tells a story worthy of framing and admiring on any castle wall. But the simple vignettes only loosely tie the plot together failing on their own to compel the reader onward. The plot itself is familiar – a loose tooth, it’s disappearance, the inevitable retrieval and the appearance of a tooth fairy. All these scenes are cute as a button, but the draw to turn a page relies strongly on the reader’s desire to view the next illustration – which is more than good enough for me!