Big at the Box Office: Ellie by Mike Wu
ELLIE WAS JUST FINISHING HER LUNCH.
THE ZOOKEEPER CAME BY WITH AN ANNOUNCEMENT.
"IT'S A SAD DAY. THE ZOO IS CLOSING."
"THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WE CAN DO," ELLIE SAID TO HER FRIENDS. "THE ZOO IS OUR HOME."
The zoo IS rundown and shabby. Clever Gerard the ape calls the others together, and they make a plan to help the zoo attract more visitors. Lucy the Giraffe prunes the overgrown trees by grazing on them for her dinner. Gerard moves rocks around to make the pathways more scenic, and the energetic monkeys scrub and sweep and spruce up the exhibit areas.
"WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?" WONDERED LITTLE ELLIE.
Then a spot of color catches her eye. Good old Walt is helping the animals by giving things a fresh coat of bright paint. And when he takes a break, Ellie picks up Walt's paintbrush to see if she can help.
ELLIE ADDED COLOR HERE... AND A RAINBOW THERE...
ELLIE PAINTED ALL HER FRIENDS.
ELLIE THE ARTIST!
Ellie fills the freshly painted walls with murals of the zoo animals and visitors, and soon she becomes a media darling. The turnstiles at the zoo just keep turning as more and more people buy tickets and come in to enjoy watching the artist and her models at work, guided by Gerard the gorilla in his new role as zoo guide.
In his first picture book effort, Ellie (Hyperion Books, 2015), Mike Wu's plotline is a fairly predictable picture book save-the-day plot, but his gentle retro-styled illustrations take on a life of their own as his zoo comes alive with color and movement. Wu, an illustrator who has worked for Pixar on some of their animated hits--Ratatouie, The Incredibles, Up and Toy Story 3,--definitely knows how to design a story that flows from page to page as film rolls from frame to frame, and the story of the young heroine whose pluck and talent make her the star of the show is always a crowd pleaser and a winner at the box office. Kirkus' reviewer also takes keen notice of the cinematographic roots of Wu's artwork, saying "Like Dorothy arriving in Oz, the world changes when the paint hits the walls."