CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 39. . . .June 10, 2016
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should preface this review by confessing that I am a total Bill Slavin groupie. This Canadian illustrator and author first captured me with his award-winning illustrations of Stanley’s Party, and I’ve remained a fan ever since. With over one hundred books for children already to his credit, this latest picture book truly showcases Bill Slavin at his finest.
Who Broke the Teapot?! is set up as a crime scene thriller that begins with Mom’s cherished teapot found smashed on the kitchen floor. Each family member, of course, denies responsibility for the dreadful deed. So who broke the teapot? Who are the possible suspects in this case? The reader wonders if it is…
The mother is terribly upset! Her long tirade against the culprit is spread across four pages and clearly expresses the depth of her infuriation and exasperation with events. Parents and children alike will certainly relate to the mother’s total melt-down over the loss of her treasured teapot as we’ve all been there at one time or another!
Slavin skillfully builds intensity through his vibrant madcap illustrations. The exaggerated facial expressions and small details are hallmarks of his recognizable illustrative style: mother grasping her hair in frustration, father’s polka-dotted underwear and knobby knees, the strands of spaghetti dangling from the baby’s highchair, sister’s apron covered with a purple cat design – there so much to investigate on each page. The playful images are portrayed in acrylic paint on gessoed board which adds a further layer of texture and, in this case, amplifies the chaos of each scene. The illustrations vary in their perspective and are accompanied by a variety of crazy fonts and lettering of all sizes.
The author briefly stays the rising action while the mother stops to reflect on what might really have happened. Then he takes the reader back in time - by five minutes – through another wild romp to uncover who is responsible for the demise of the teapot.
But wait! Mother’s pause would also be the perfect spot for the reader to stop and revisit the events sprawled across the first pages of this picture book before reading on. There is much to question. What is brother doing hanging from the kitchen fan? Why is sister baking and allowing Bowser to lick out the bowl? Shouldn’t the father be supervising events instead of reading the paper? Did the cat’s tangle of wool strewn across the kitchen floor contribute to the chain of events? Could the baby’s confession of guilt really be true? This is also the perfect opportunity for students to write their own version of what happened.
No spoilers as to the final surprise outcome, but this story is sure to generate plenty of enthusiastic discussion as readers consider the implication of guilt for each family member and who really was to blame for the teapot’s breakage. In the right context, the story events could even be used with older students to illustrate the consequences of the blame game and finger-pointing. This energy-packed picture book would be a great addition to any library collection or as a welcome gift for any youngster, teacher, or parent for that matter! The cover and flyleaf had me laughing before I even reached page one.
Who Broke the Teapot?! earns full marks and is sure to become a favourite read.
Joanie Proske is a teacher-librarian in the Langley School District, Langley, BC.
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