Book: A Perfectly Messed-Up Story
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Age Range: 3-6
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell is the latest entry into the growing category of picture books in which what happens to the book is part of the story (This book just ate my dog! comes to mind). What happens in A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is that a guy named "little Louie" is "skipping merrily along" in a sunny landscape, beginning to tell his story, when he suddenly encounters a blob of jelly. Louie is horrified that someone would eat a sandwich while reading his book. And then things s get worse.
There is peanut butter plopping onto the page, followed by fingerprints, and orange juice, and then ... deliberate disrespect ... coloring. Louie throws a tantrum because, after all, "books are important". He makes an attempt to withdraw himself from the story altogether. But in the end, he realizes that, well, the book has actually turned out fine.
The illustrations in A Perfectly Messed-Up Story feature a big-eyed character that looks like the little monsters in McDonnell's The Monsters' Monster. He has a toddler-like appearance, even wearing a one-piece romper. His posture and exaggerated facial expressions clearly indicate his displeasure when things go wrong. But the real beauty of the illustrations is the way McDonnell makes it look like there is actually a blob of jelly stuck the page. The various things that defile the book stand out clearly from the rather muted backgrounds, with strong visual cues for young readers about exactly what is going on.
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is a fun book for preschoolers, though the one-joke storyline may not hold the attention of older kids. There's a subtle lesson about learning to roll with the punches, but the action in the book is so contrary to expectations that kids will be laughing too hard to realize that they have absorbed any message. Recommended for younger readers, and for fans of McDonnell's distinct illustration style. A Perfectly Messed-Up Story would make a fun group read-aloud for library or preschool, too.
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher, received for consideration for the Cybils awards.
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