To get me excited over a book there has to be something about it that just grabs me. And of course, that does not mean it works out in the end but some times it does. The covers of these two picture books fit that bill of they “grabbed me” and got me excited. The first is about a bird that is from its cover, a crossed-eyed, awkward looking chap (think Quentin Blake illustrations as it is by Blake). And the second is about a cat that just had a pus on it that said, “I’m cute, I’m fuzzy, I’m grumpy” and it also said, “I’m loveable, so read me.”
I am not a Quentin Blake fan. Oh, I appreciate their work, but it usually does not “do it” for me. That is, until Loveykins. Or at least the mid-December 2024 edition that was read via an online reader copy. If you are not familiar with the story (as I was not) it is about Angela Bowling and her beloved pet/child, Augustus (who quickly becomes her Loveykins). Augustus is a bird found blown out of its nest after a storm. And Anglea, with good intentions, spoils him with the best foods (chocolates, creamed carrots, etc) and bundles him up in a lot of cardigans and blankets so he won’t catch a cold. Of course, you can only smoother them so long before they need to spread their (creaky) wings. The story itself is simple enough, and the adoption concept is not new, but there was something about it that made me chuckle. Perhaps that was because of the slightly macabre ending of Augustus eating some beetles and other appropriate foods, like a dead squirrel. Now, that is perfectly normal for a bird of prey (I am guessing eagle or vulture), but today’s audience might take offence to that. Blake does not show a “dead squirrel” in all its gory… I mean glory… but it is there. I am guessing that this is a typical Blake work, so go into it knowing that.
And then there was, to counter the goofy oddness and fun of Blake, we have Natalia Shaloshvili doing Pavlo Get the Grumps. Also read via an online reader copy, Pavlo is due early November 2024, is about a young cat/child named Pavlo. He does not want to go to the park (the slide is too slidey), or go swimming (the water is too wet and the fish would nibble his toes), and does not even want to go to the movies (he’d have to sit too long and he has a wiggly bottom today). When his mother suggests he has the grumps, he argues, but agrees to still go outside with her, where they run into some friends and a turn in the feelings department. There is nothing really new with the story, but it is nicely done. The illustrations are sweet, the cover tells you a lot of what you’ll see inside the cover. They are fuzzy, simple, slightly colorful and not too dark but not POPPING off the page. It is a nice read when you have the grumps yourself. I was assuming the author was not Western to start with, but learned they are originally from the Ukraine. And this makes sense to what my “inner ear” was hearing as I was reading. There is a tone of old world folktale to it. The artwork feels like a classic, cozy, old school style with a modern take as well.