Vincent Kirsch's Natalie & Naughtily is a sure bet to please fans of the Eloise books, as well as fans of Where's Waldo-type illustrations. Natalie and Naughtily Nopps live "in a house on top of the greatest department store in the world." One that just happens to have their name on it. Natalie and Naughtily both love to play in the nine-story department store, although Naughtily shows a much less conventional approach to fun than that of her more proper twin sister.
One rainy day, Natalie and Naughtily are asked not to play in the store, because it's going to be a very busy day. When they decide not to play, but to "help", chaos ensues. The book follows the two sisters as they try to help on each floor of the department store, only to be encouraged to go someplace else.
The text of Natalie & Naughtily is filled with amusing details. For instance, the elevator operator is named Stepforth, the long-nosed store manager is called Mr. Iceberger, and the snooty designer is called Dandileoni. On each floor, Natalie tries to help in relatively normal fashion, while Naughtily remains quirky, though both girls leave trouble in their wake. For example:
"The store tailor, Ago Forbici, had a crowd of customers waiting for alterations on the eighth floor. Natalie and Naughtily knew just how to help. Natalie measured her customers one at a time. Naughtily measured her customers all at once."
"On the ninth floor, there were lines everywhere. One was full of the customers that Natalie had helped. Another was full of the customers Naughtily had helped."
Kirsch's illustrations, however, are where most of the details come into play. Most of the pages are filled with tiny, detailed images of each floor of the department store. A series of dogs in hats parades from floor to floor. The antiques floor boasts little signs that say things like "Do not ever touch anything." The toy floor features a curving roller coaster, and freakish, bug-eyed dolls, among many, many other images. There's even a bit of a Dr. Seuss feel to the pictures, especially the one in which Naughtily shows off "the do-it-yourself twelve-legged cat-catcher gadget".
Two young boys helped by Natalie and Naughtily also appear, moving through the store from floor to floor, following hand-written guides from the two girls. Young readers will enjoy looking for Rudy and Ridley Toolittle (and for the dogs) on every page. I would recommend this book especially for early elementary school kids, to pore over on their own, or with a parent. It would make an excellent take-along book for long car rides. Although the two main characters are girls, they are mischievous enough, I think, to appeal to boys, too. Natalie & Naughtily the book, and Natalie and Naughtily the sisters, are all great fun. Recommended!
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.