Book: LaRue Across America: Postcards From the Vacation
Author: Mark Teague
Age Range: 5-8
LaRue Across America: Postcards from the Vacation by Mark Teague is an unconventional picture book in which the story is told in the form of a series of postcards sent from Ike the dog to his neighbor, Mrs. Hibbins. Ike is traveling across America with his owner, Mrs. LaRue, and Mrs. Hibbins' two cats. Ike is NOT happy about the cats, or the fact that the drive is replacing a previously planned (cat-free) cruise to Mexico. Ike solicits Mrs. Hibbins' help in talking Mrs. LaRue out of this craziness, but no replies are shown. Each postcard shows a date and location, and a map on the end pages of the book maps out the full journey from Snort City, NY to Los Angeles.
Ike's postcards are witty in and of themselves, with added humor from the pictures (which sometimes reveal Ike's biased perspective on the situation). Here's a snippet to show you Ike's tone:
"We have departed, and things do not look hopeful. It seems that the same awful heat which caused your own collapse has left your cats ill-tempered and unmanageable. Our visit to the water park was a disaster. Needless to say, we all want the cats to be happy, but I am certain that they would be happier at home."
The accompanying picture shows Ike having a great time on the waterslide, while the cats scowl in the background.
From state to state, Ike continues to implore his neighbor to end the torture of "endless travel, poor food, lump mattresses, and unpleasant company (!)", but to no avail. However, due to a fortuitous rescue by an outside party, things turn out ok in the end.
In addition to postcards, there are a couple of articles from the Snort City Gazette included, adding visual interest. Many of the pages feature two illustrations, one in color and the other in grayscale. Some show two different aspects of the situation described in the postcard, while some images just show Ike, Mrs. LaRue, and the cats as they are, traveling along.
Teague's illustrations are lively and full of humor. He throws in little details, like a bottle of "Bob's Sunblock for Dogs" next to a pair of sunglasses, and a vulture waiting on the roof of Mrs. LaRue's car, stalled in Death Valley. Ike is appealing, with a nice painted texture to his fur. Mrs. LaRue looks rather grim in many of the picture, but then, who wouldn't in her situation?
LaRue Across America: Postcards From the Vacation is a picture book that will go right over the heads of younger kids. There's also quite a bit of text on each page, making it fairly time-consuming as a read-aloud (certainly impractical for storytimes). But it should be a good fit for early elementary school kids who are comfortable with reading, and ready to appreciate the humor of Ike's conflicts with the cats (as when he tries to drop them off a building, even though he denies any such intention). Certainly I found it entertaining as an adult reader. I will keep an eye out for any future adventures of Ike and Mrs. LaRue.
Publisher: The Bly Sky Press (@scholastic)
Publication Date: March 1, 20111
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Kristy
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