Scott Magoon's first Houghton Mifflin book, Hugo & Miles in I've Painted Everything!, is a real treat. I wanted to read it as soon as I saw the cover in the catalog. Hugo is a blue elephant. The cover photo shows Hugo looking crestfallen, in a paint-spattered smock, standing in front of a picture of an ordinary wall outlet. He looks like someone the reader would want to help. And he does need help. You see, Hugo is in "an elephunk". He's an artist, a painter, living in a small town. One day he realizes that he has (gasp!) run out of ideas. He's painted everything.
Fortunately, Hugo's best friend Miles knows just what to do. Miles whisks Hugo off to Paris, where they explore the whole city, visiting the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, and the gorgeous parks. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, Hugo has an epiphany, one which gets his creative juices flowing again. He realizes that a change in perspective will keep him from ever running out of ideas again. Words to live by for all of us.
The entire story is filled with humor that, while kid friendly, offers an extra nod to adult readers. For instance, when Hugo considers painting in an impressionist style, Miles says that he'll be "Van Hugo." If he paints a large painting, clearly it will be "Hugo-mongous." And so on.
The pencil illustrations (digitally colored) provide many other jokes for readers. The airline that Miles and Hugo fly to Paris is called "Get There Air", while their return flight is on "Been There Air". They hang out at the "Same Day Cafe". A suspicious raccoon character lurks in one of the Museum scenes, having clearly just stolen a painting. In another scene, we see the raccoon escorted by a police officer, though he's never actually mentioned in the text. In the last scene, we see Hugo balanced on his head, painting upside down.
But the humor is only part of what makes this book so wonderful. The other part is the humanity of Hugo and Miles. Hugo's nervousness when he's on the plane, his dejection when he's out of ideas, his wonder in Paris, and his enthusiasm when ideas visit him again will help kids everywhere to relate to him. Miles' joie de vivre shines through, as does his pride in helping his friend, and his pleasure in his eventual success. This may be a trite thing to say about a picture book, but Hugo and Miles are adorable. I know that I want to spend more time with them, and I hope very much that this is the first of a long series of titles.
Book: Hugo & Miles in I've Painted Everything!
Author: Scott Magoon (side note: Scott is Hot Man of Children's Literature #37, the first to be elected by the voting public, at A Fuse #8 Production)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Original Publication Date: April 2007
Age Range: 4-8
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
Other blog reviews: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. See also this post by Grace Lin about Scott's book release party for I've Painted Everything!
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.