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Argus: Michelle Knudsen

Book: Argus
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrator: Andrea Wesson
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

Argus210-330Argus is a tongue-in-cheek picture book that will appeal more, I think, to elementary school kids than to preschoolers. I know it made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions. Argus is written by Michelle Knudsen, author of the lovely Library Lion, and illustrated by Andrea Wesson. It's the story of a classroom in which all of the students have eggs to hatch. Most of the students end up with cute, fluffy little chicks. Sally, on the other hand, ends up with big, green, scaly Argus.

The running joke through the book is that although Sally knows that her egg, and resulting pet, is different from everyone else's, her non-nonsense teacher Mrs. Henshaw keeps telling her: "Don't be difficult." She expects Sally to overcome the difficulties of raising Argus, and to participate just like everyone else does. So, while the other chicks' growth charts are pretty flat, Argus' requires extra paper. And when Argus digs giant holes in the playground, well, Mrs. Henshaw has some construction cones to keep people safe.

Here are a couple of examples from the text:

"Next the children drew pictures of their chicks to post on the walls. All of the other children's pictures were cute and yellow and very much alike. Sally's picture ... wasn't."

"As the days passed, the chicks grew bigger. Argus was the biggest of them all. He stopped trying to eat the other chicks. He started trying to eat the children instead.

"Mrs. Henshaw!" the children complained.

Mrs. Henshaw rushed over and rescued the children."

Wesson's illustrations bring the green, yellow-eyed Argus to life. Even as the text is rather matter-of-fact about Argus, the pictures don't lie, and reveal the chaos that surrounds this oversized "chick". 

The children are realistic-looking, except for being uniformly thin, and appear more to be upper elementary school kids than little kids (as one would expect from a science project like this, but still a bit unusual for a picture book). I might have liked to see a broader spectrum of skin tones and body shapes on the students - their homogeneity gives the book an old-fashioned feel. And it's a bit ironic, given that a major point of the book is learning to take things that are different in stride, and celebrating the differences. But I did like the book-filled classroom, and the valiant, student-rescuing Mrs. Henshaw.

I think that Argus would make a fun classroom or library read-aloud. Recommended for anyone looking for a good laugh.

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Marianna Baer

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).