CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 10 . . . . January 19, 2001
Very Very Odd, by Australian illustrator Geoff Kelly, author of Stuck With Baby (1996) and illustrator of Power and Glory (1996) certainly does live up to its title. In the first place, this strange little tale about a dog and a flea is bound at the top, rather than at the side, and printed in portrait, rather than landscape, style. The story features Dog and Flea, who, though neighbors, do not get on well. When a clever scientist from a country on the other side of the world invents a revolutionary new flea collar which he calls the "Flearadicator 2000," Dog immediately orders the miraculous collar. Once on, "Lights flashed. Dog's nose began to tingle...The whole collar glowed as it started to spin around and around and around Dog's neck." Within seconds, the circuits and wires and microchips have popped Flea out of Dog's fur and deep into the garden. Alas, life without each other is not as pleasant as either had hoped. Flea is lonely, and Dog, who has undergone a colourful transformation as a side-effect of the Flearadicator, has found that scratching without an itch is quite unsatisfying. As the reader will certainly expect, their search for each other has a happy, if very very odd, ending.
Very Very Odd is not only a wacky story replete with what the author calls "....thrills, spills and a bunch of dills," but, as he points out on the first page, "... there are a number of odd things to do and even odder things to find." These oddities include examining the end papers to find matching pairs and differences, a "Flearadicator Maze," a "Spot the Dog" page with 30 different dogs to match, a "Crawly Creep Maze" and a challenge to find 166 things the wily author has hidden throughout the pictures in the book. The final challenge for those who aspire to be a "Mega-brain type" is to find and draw a picture of the secret password hidden in the pages of Very Very Odd and mail it off to Kelly who will reply with his own version of the answer.
The author's wildly coloured, stylized technique reminds the reader of Lane Smith's artwork. The energy and detail of Kelly's quirky illustrations will definitely challenge the visual acuity of adult readers, as will the picture puzzle adventures. Those children, particularly boys from eight to eleven, who adore picture puzzle books such as the "I Spy" or "Where's Waldo" series will have fun taking on the odd puzzles. Very Very Odd should prove a good picture book for paired reading, with an older child reading the text while the younger one helps to solve the puzzles.
Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.
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