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Friday, April 17, 2015

Leaves, Sleeves, Breezes and Freezes: A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel



Would you take chilly-weather-wear advice from this man?

Or would you prefer to take it from a tree?



"IT'S SNOWING!" SAID THE GIRL

"IT'S COLD OUTSIDE," SAID HER MOTHER. "YOU'D BETTER WEAR YOUR BOOTS!"

"EARMUFFS!" SAID HER FATHER

"SNOWPANTS!" SAID THE DOG. "GLOVES!" SAID LOUISE. "SWEATER!" SAID THE TREE.

"HAT!" SAID THE REFRIGERATOR.

Everyone, even the can of beans in the kitchen, is an expert on winter-wear, and the girl dutifully dons it, parka, gloves, scarf, and all. It takes a long time, but finally prepared for an Arctic blast, she stiffly stomps, Frankenstein-like, to the front door, ready for snow day fun.

But by the time she finally opens the door, winter is over and spring has sprung.

She gives the reader a disgusted look and beginning with one wool-socked foot, she crawls out of her winter wear through the parka hood, leaving it standing alone in the center of the living room.

"SO LONG!" SHE SAYS.

"SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!" SAYS HER OUTERWEAR.

Following a quick change of clothes, the girl emerges into spring in tutu and with her wand in hand.

Puppy is willing to play knight in armor to her princess, but her sleeping pussycat is not about to interrupt her nap for a anybody's spring fantasy.

That's pretty much it for spring, as the weather morphs into a heat wave. On a four-frame page the girl and Louise (her fuchsia hippo) are walking down the steamy sidewalk. The girl is hot. In fact, she's melting.

Really.

"GADZOOKS!" says Louise, seeing that the girl is reduced to a puddle on the walk. Thinking fast, Louise scoops the girl-puddle up into her GreatGulp cup and zooms inside to stash it in the in freezer while the girl reconstitutes herself  in the cup.  But Louise gets sacked out on the couch watching the latest installment of The Can of Beans Show, and when she remembers, the girl is back in shape but frozen in a block of ice. What to do?

Not to worry. It's still hot outside.

When Nick Bruel, cartoonist and author of the drop-dead funny Bad Kitty series,takes on the cycle of the seasons, you know it's going to be, er, different from the usual apple-tree-through-the-seasons with snowflakes and blossoms. There are those changes, of course, including a talking tree who changes color from green to gold to brown and sweetly saves its last leaf as a bookmark for the reading girl sitting underneath during the shedding season. But even the tree can't resist a bit of wardrobe advice:

"IT'S STARTING TO GET COLD. YOU'D BETTER PUT ON A SWEATER."

Bruel's latest, A Wonderful Year (Roaring Brook Press, 2015), takes a tongue-in-cheek tack on the usual story of the seasons, with his usual zany characters, unpredictable plotting, and meticulously drafted but wacky cartoon characters, done up in full- and four-frame page design. Bruel's language is easy enough for early readers, and the varied pages, some without text and some with mixed font sizes, keeps the focus on the story as it brings the year around full-circle. "Bruel offers surefire readaloud laughs as well as space for pondering," points out in Publishers Weekly's starred review.

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