Friday, March 14, 2014

Spoon by Amy Krause Rosenthal; illustrated by Scott Magoon (2009)

I enjoyed this picture book (Goodreads said I would), but I'm not exactly sure who the audience for it is.  The idea is really clever.  Spoon thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence - or in the other utensil drawer.  Fork, knife, chopstick - all have far more interesting lives than he (why does Spoon have  to be a boy?  Or have a gender identity at all?  Spoons have no genitalia.  But I way way digress).  Spoon's mother isn't really any help (At first, she gives him sort of "Yes, dear" types of answers to his grumbling and essentially blows him off; he probably bitches a lot, so she is used to this).  What Spoon doesn't know is that the rest of the utensil gang are all jealous of him.  She finally tells him he's pretty damn lucky - no one else gets to dive "headfirst into a bowl of ice cream" or "clink against the side of a cereal bowl."  A good message!  We are all damn lucky, although quite frankly, we don't always like to be told that.

The Spoons are "those" kinds of parents, because at the end, Spoon "lay awake in bed for a long time.  His mind was racing... he felt so alive!  There was only one thing to do..."   He says "I can't sleep," and his parents, who are sleeping in the compartment next to him in the drawer, say "Come, snuggle" and he sleeps with them.  Definitely 21st century parenting; my parents may have said "you are damn lucky" but they would have never said "come sleep with us."

Favorite line:  "What's wrong?" asked his mother.  "You look a bit bent out of shape."  Ha ha!

The illustrations are terrific.

The chopstick family made me giggle.  Spoon describes them:  "Everyone think they're really cool and exotic."  The illustrations make them look like they are doing performance art, which was a hoot.

The book is message driven, but not pedantically so.  There really isn't a plot, which the witty writing and cleverness of the illustrations made up for.  But audience-wise, I don't know.  This falls falls into Mo Willems land quite easily, but almost without the double charm of Willems, the ability to work on two levels (adult and child). Because the message hits you in the head (really, it's not subtle at all), it's very "adult-y."  But it has  genuine playfulness, and I think some kids would probably really enjoy it. 

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Playfully and wittily written, with fun and clever illustrations.  I'm not a huge fan of message-driven books (particularly about self esteem) but this one doesn't stray (very far at least) into afterschool special pedantry(the antics of pedantics make me antsy).  The Spoons are definitely modern parents (I don't recall ever being allowed to sleep with my parents regardless of fear or Eureka! moments).  There is some subtlety in the interactions between Spoon and his mother (which, I suppose, has to stand in for a plot, since there isn't one).  I have one small quibble - can't the Spoons be gender neutral?  But don't let that sway you from reading the book aloud - if you've got a little girl in your lap, change the pronoun.   

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