Monday, April 17, 2017

Point Well Taken! Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klaasen

This is Triangle.

One day Triangle walked out of his house.

He was going to play a sneaky trick on Square.

Triangle is all about the angular thing. His house is a pyramid. His doorway is triangular, and all the houses around him are the same. But it is eyes right as Triangle trots past all the other pyramidal homes and through the wild wasteland, rife with random rocks with no known form.

They were shapes that had no name.

But at last Triangle's trek brings him to a village of orderly square houses, and the rectilinear residence of his purported friend, Square. With a shifty glance, Triangle stops. He voices a sinister sound!


Square is scared stiff. He imagines the worst.

"Oh, Dear! Oh, Dear! How many snakes are out there?"

Triangle gives himself away with his snarky guffaws. Now Square knows he's been had. The two give each other sidewise glares...., Square's look revealing that he's already planning his revenge.

Triangle returns to his pyramidal home, delighted with the success of his sneaky trick.

Square follows shortly after. He himself has a sneaky prank to play. It seems he knows Triangle's worst phobia, too. He wedges himself square in the triangular door of Triangle's house.

"It's too dark!" cries Triangle. "You are blocking my light!!

It is Triangle's turn to be terrified. He's stonewalled. Square can't resist gloating.

"You see, Triangle, this was my plan all along."

But was it? Doubtful, since Square is seemingly stuck fast in Triangle's door. It's a standoff, all right, with both of the battling buddies nonplussed, apparently hoist by their own petards, in Mac Barnett's and Jon Klaasen's newest, er, blockbuster collaboration, Triangle (Candlewick Press, 2017). It seems as if Triangle and Square will have plenty of time to resolve their personal problems, if not their phobias, especially since this title is the first of a trilogy planned by these picture book partners with the creative chops to carry off their minimally developed characters in further fabular encounters.

Mac Barnett's spare and wry text, done in understated deadpan narration, is perfectly paired with Klaasen's minimalist but somehow monumental figures. The eyes have it with Klassen's work, as he uses only the eyes of his characters to tell the story visually, just as he did with such fine effect in his notable We Found a Hat. What you get with this combo is an ironical and masterful example of the modern picture book from the winning pair who gave us the Caldecott Honor Books Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Irma S and James H Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature (Awards)). (see reviews here and here). Klaasen resurrects his color palette and the simulated spray-patterned earth tones from the latter to good effect in this new one, and altogether this creative pair has again produced a small masterpiece, well vetted with starred reviews all around from the critics.

Good for shape-naming preschoolers and easy enough for emergent readers, this one has that sophisticated touch of irony to charm much older readers as well. Bravissimo, boys! Carry on!

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