Monday, October 31, 2011

The Beastie Bunch: Ten Little Beasties by Rebecca and Ed Emberley

Up to ten and back again is the premise of this latest collaboration between father-and-daughter duo Ed and Rebecca Emberley. In the familiar cadence and set to the well-known tune for "Ten Little Indians," the text simply counts up and down the weird and wacky beasties, but the illustrations are something else.

Using bright page backgrounds in glowing colors--turquoise, gold, lemon yellow, chartreuse, violet, and orange, to name a few--in their newest, Ten Little Beasties (Roaring Brook Press, 2011) the Emberleys come up with highly original critters, executed primarily in black and white, with a few color accents here and there. These accents are not necessary to differentiate the monsters, however, because each is unique in shape, size, and details, one with a central horn, several with tails, with varying numbers of eyes, and most with indescribable protuberances from different body parts. As the count goes up to ten, all cavort across the page, never in the same place, as the pages are turned.


But what goes up must come down, and as the Emberleys begin the countdown, something seems to be diminishing the beasties' numbers. and there's a bit of a surprise when the last surviving beastie appears on the final page.

Ever since Ed Emberley's creative illustrations copped a Caldecott back in 1968 for Drummer Hoff, his work has consistently continued to be in the avant garde of children's illustration. His popular picture books, such as Go Away, Big Green Monster!, and his recent collaborations with author-illustrator Rebecca, There Was An Old Monster! and last year's If You're A Monster And You Know It, have a rhythmic verve and original use of media that is truly unique. Ten Little Beasties is also a fun preschool counting book and song, and the music for the song, performed by another Emberley, Rebecca's daughter Adrian, is available online.

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