Sunday, June 16, 2019

Doing Time in Titular Limbo? Untitled by Timothy Young

Everybody's a critic! Carlos the Coatimundi and Ignatz the Capybara, nee Porcupine (the illustrator tired of drawing all those quills) are complaining, stuck in a book with no plot, setting, or theme. Marooned on a rock in a barren landscape, the two wannabe heroes long for a storyline in which they bravely battle dragons or monsters, bad hombres on horseback in the Badlands or atrocious octopi from a deep-sea capsule. What are they doing here, lost on big, empty pages, without even a premise?

"I've never seen a book about a coatimundi and a... wait, what are you again?"

"I'm a capybara, the world's largest rodent. He likes drawing lesser-known animals."

Carlos and Ignatz bemoan their lack of an exciting setting, only to find in a quick page turn that their creator has stuck them into a silly little red car in a page from Go, Dog, Go!

They seek refuge in the Children's Room of a library, longing to be the memorable main characters in books by other famous authors-illustrators of books like Make Way for Coatis, Coatimundi in Undies by Dr. Moose, Capybara Underpants by Dav Pilchard, Carlos and Ignatz Are Stuck in a Plothole, by Mac Barnowl and Jon Kinkajou, and Ignatz and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, by Jaguar Viorst.
""He hardly writes a story. He just relies on characters like us to come up with the dialogue," Carlos kvetches.

And in true Timothy Young form, Ignatz and Carlos remain marooned in the desert of storyland with not a denouement in sight, until--

-- in the oldest plot device ever--DEUS, er, DINO EX MACHINA----they suddenly become dinner for a big, green T. Rex which, with both characters still lamenting a lack of foreshadowing from within its stomach, galumphs off into the sunset.
"Well, I didn't see that coming," says Carlos."

It looks like a setup for Untitled, Too, (The Sequel) in Timothy Young's latest titular spoof of the popular metafiction trope, the story within a story. Young, who professes to be a disciple of Marx Brothers movies, Monty Python, Mad Magazine, and Steve Martin, is in great form in his just-published picture book, Untitled (Schiffer Press, 2019). Author-illustrator of Looney Toon-ish-style parodies such as The Angry Little Puffin, I Hate Picture Books! and If You Give the Puffin a Muffin, Young also provides a double-page spread of library shelves with dozens of take-off titles from classic children's books that will keep young readers giggling as they peruse his parodied titles and authors. This one is a real tour de force of kiddy-lit lampooning for savvy readers to discover in a stealthy lesson in the ever-popular elements of fiction.

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