Abigail Beckman

Review: ‘Pete With No Pants’

Review: ‘Pete With No Pants’

I immediately wanted to read this book because of the title. Seemingly every kid–and even some adults–go through a phase where they just don’t want to wear pants.

In his mother’s words, Pete the elephant is “as naked as a pigeon” for most of the story. He tries to find a connection with things that are “like” him: boulders, trees, clouds, all of which are gray, and none of which are wearing pants. As Pete endures asides from smudgy little squirrels, readers are drawn up and down and every which way across the page to see what happens next. But in the end, rather haphazardly, Pete learns a real life lesson. And although readers never really knows why Pete’s not wearing pants, it turns out not to be his most important attribute. This is a book you will no doubt want to read aloud again and again.

I was also intrigued by the author’s name: Rowboat Watkins. I’m sure you remember him–or at least his name–from Rude Cakes, his 2015 picture book about, well, a rude cake. (Reviewed here.) On his website, Watkins has this to say about his unique first name:

“I’d be a lousy speedboat. And I’m way too shy to be a showboat. And way too weak to be a tugboat. And too gloomy to be a loveboat. And (sadly) not swashbuckling enough to be a dreamboat. And no one wants to be called dinghy. So that left rowboat. Nothing fancy, but great to have around when the ship starts sinking. And they smell good in the rain.”

After reading this book, I’d very much like to read more of Pete’s adventures, even if he’s not wearing pants. And I think I’d also like to be friends with Rowboat, because, let’s face it, those are the best kinds of boats.

Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins (Chronicle Books | 9781452144016 | May 2, 2017)

Editor’s note: When I asked Rowboat Watkins if he had an author image he was willing to share, he replied with this:

Um…I’m not really big on photos of me. Never have been. It is undoubtedly all my parents’ fault. So blame them.
But in lieu of a photo of the me that is boringly me, here’s a paper me that is pretty much the same thing. Only cheerier.
p.s. In the attached photo, I’m the one on the right wearing pants. Sometimes people think I’m on the left. But that, of course, is a boulder. Or was it a cloud? Anyway, whatever it is, it’s not me. I’m on the right. Just in case you weren’t sure.

Review: ‘A River’ by Marc Martin

A River_9781452154237_71c07Guided by a river outside her bedroom window, the child in A River by Marc Martin embarks in a tiny silver boat that carries her on a budding adventure. The story begins in her bedroom, adorned with carefully drawn posters, knick-knacks and toys. As she travels downstream, the textures and scenery of each spread invite the reader to join in her journey of discovery. (It is worth noting, I think, that the gender of the main character in A River is never mentioned. My only deciding factor was the hairstyle, but that honestly means nothing. I like that Martin doesn’t limit the audience, and, whether intentionally or not, opens up the sense of wonder to everyone.)

Readers will no doubt end up spending more time carefully looking at the images than reading the words. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. The adventure in this book doesn’t exist just in the writing or just in the illustrations—but in the combination of the two. I found myself running my hands over the pages, wanting to feel each object.

Martin uses cool blues and quiet greens that blend softly together. The color palette is natural, and while objects are defined, there aren’t harsh lines to separate one concept from another. In my favorite section, animals are seen only as tiny eyes in a nighttime jungle…until you look a little bit closer. You won’t find bright flashes of color directing your attention, but that kind of device is not necessary.

A River introduces the concept of interconnectedness; the same river outside your window could carry you to faraway places: under distant bridges, beside factories with plumes of smoke rising into the sky, beyond fields, through a jungle and eventually to the ocean—but only if you dare to go. Even if it’s just in your imagination.

A River by Marc Martin (Chronicle Books | 9781452154237 | March 7, 2017)