Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn (illustrated by Ali Teo and John O'Reilly) is fabulous. It's about a young boy, Andy, who hates it when his flamboyant Auntie Elsie gives him sloppy kisses on both cheeks. He hides each week when his aunt is coming over, but she always tricks him into coming out of his hiding place. Each time, he's smothered in unwelcome hugs and kisses. Until, that is, the week that Auntie Elsie doesn't show up (because she fell off a camel in Australia and broke her leg). Although the ending that follows is predictable (at least to the adult audience), it is also heart-felt, and sure to win over pre-school readers. The wacky illustrations (the aunt wears purple glasses shaped like a butterfly, for example) keep the book from being overly sappy.
Auntie Elsie is a delightfully exaggerated character, with thick red lipstick, bright floral clothing, sequined shoes, and a huge, tireless smile. She looks the way a five-year-old might perceive an overwhelming and unconventional adult, noticing that lipstick and clothing. She is brave in all areas, and not to be denied. Andy is visually exaggerated, too, with a round head, short spiky hair, enormous eyes, and a frequent scowl, but his behavior feels real. He hides in what he thinks are sneaky places, but he pokes his head out when there's the promise of something interesting.
One little thing that I liked about this book, among many others, is the unremarked, but visually obvious, difference in skin color between the Andy and Auntie Elsie. Andy is, perhaps, a mixed race child, with skin several tones darker than Elsie's pink and white complexion. This difference has no bearing whatsoever on the relationship between Andy and Elsie, and I think this could be validating for children who live in families that have differences in appearance between family members.
Another nice touch is the way, each time she calls to Andy, Auntie Elsie uses a slight different pet name for him (Andy Apple Sauce, Andy Apple Crumble, Andy Angel Cake, etc.). This variation nicely offsets the repetition of "Kiss! Kiss! on the left cheek. Kiss! Kiss! on the right cheek. Yuck! Yuck!"
Teo and O'Reilly's illustrations are unusual and captivating. The illustrations were created using pencil and collage, and then treated digitally. This allows details like beads of sweat that appear in 3-D on Andy's forehead, and the occasional blurring of foreground and background. On one page, slightly blurred background images of Andy look like they are behind a thin screen relative to the foreground images of Andy, as he darts about trying to dodge kisses, with blurring indicating movement. It's difficult to describe, but visually appealing, something that wouldn't have been possible without digital editing.
This is a book that is going right into my gift-giving rotation. It's a brand new favorites. Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! is a visual and auditory delight, and will make an excellent read-aloud for the four to eight year old set. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (US publication, the book was originally published in New Zealand)
Publication Date: September 1
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: A Year of Reading, Abby (the) Librarian, Young Adult (and Kids) Book Central
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.