Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Don't Mess with MAMA! Mo Willems Presents... That Is Not A Good Idea by Mo Willems


A dapper fox, obviously on the prowl, practically twirls his mustache and licks his chops as he spies a tempting and tasty entre, a guileless-looking, blue-babuska-wearing goose, clutching her wicker shopping basket.

He gallantly invites her for stroll and she demurely accepts.  The melodrama ratchets up incrementally, as she in turn accepts the suggestion for a walk in the woods and a visit to the foxy gentleman's kitchen, where he engagingly begins to prepare their lunch, a savory soup in an alarmingly large stock pot.

So ... you think you know where this one is going?

Well, not with the wickedly wry Mo Willems as the director of this little one-reeler thriller.

Casting his little melodrama in the format of a silent film short subject, Mo Willems provides medium shots of the Fox and his quarry with closeups of the unsuspecting stooge goose coyly concurring, alternating with gray-toned title frames in which six little goslings act as a Greek chorus, with appropriately fateful prophecies.


The warning subtitles become increasingly dire, with considerable overacting by the juveniles, as Fox's nefarious plot thickens, until at last he invites Goose to come closer to the simmering pot to taste for that elusive missing ingredient!


But the seemingly hapless hen turns the tables on this well-turned-out scoundrel in a climactic tour de force that has the reader suddenly realizing whom+ those warnings were really for, in Mo Willems' latest, That Is Not a Good Idea! (Balzer & Bray, 2013). Willems ends this little tale of peril with a final frame showing the goose and her chicks enjoying a savory soup with, um, just the right missing ingredient. Willems puts the silent film format to perfect use here, with each page a frame of a hand-cranked short subject, with a conclusion that would have his foxy villain (were he not otherwise engaged in, er, seasoning the soup) crying "Curses! Foiled again!"

Roll credits!

How Willems manages to continue to top himself with each flawless picture book would confound even the Keystone Kops. With a few well-chosen facial expression lines and telling body language, peerless page pacing, and a wry wit that wins over all ages, this winner of multiple Caldecotts and Theodor Seuss Geisel Awards shows yet again that he is indeed the master of picture-book craft.

As Publishers Weekly puts it cunningly and punningly, "a wickedly droll poultry-in-peril yarn."

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