Saturday, January 28, 2017

Picture Book(s) Review: Three Titles by Ryan T. Higgins

I recall reading rave reviews of Mother Bruce a year or so back but, being in a middle school, I don't always get to all the picture books I'd like. Then, I had the good fortune of hearing the author/ illustrator read Hotel Bruce at a rip-roaring Disney preview at Annual in Orlando. What a hoot!

Earlier this week, I attended the Disney preview at Midwinter in Atlanta. As soon as I spied the name Ryan T. Higgins, I grabbed an fng of Be Quiet!! It was read to us by the editorial staff and the room was highly amused. I could not wait to return and share Be Quiet! with my "period Kahn" students.

Because the main characters in this were from Hotel Bruce and because Bruce makes a cameo appearance in this one, I decided to read all three books to them to test the group's stamina and observe what my students noticed. Luckily, the amazing public library across the street from the school owned both Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce. The story time was a huge success. I don't believe I have ever heard them laugh so hard or be so attentive. And, yes, connections were made!

So here's a sort of review of all three:

Mother Goose Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. unpgd. Disney/ Hyperion, 2015. 9781484730881. (Review from copy borrowed from public library)

Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney/ Hyperion, 2016. 9781484743621. (Review from copy borrowed from public library)

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney/ Hyperion, April 4, 2017. 9781484731628. (Review from fng courtesy of publisher)

We always start by examining the end pages if they are decorated. We always start by finding the copyright date because one student (a natural librarian) is intensely interested in copyright dates and NEEDS to know it before anything else. Then, we proceed to check out the front flap and whether there are decorated end pages. We often flip to the back flap, especially if the author and/or illustrator are new to us.

Often, a picture book story begins on the end-pages, but in Mother Goose Bruce, it actually begins on the front flap. 

Do you see the tiny little nest containing four eggs on the bottom left corner? Here:

Bruce is a bear so grumpy he could give Grumpy Cat a run for his money. He also likes eggs. Any eggs but he doesn't eat them raw. He is a connoisseur and has mastered various ways of cooking them. When he's interrupted while preparing four goose eggs, he returns to find them hatched. Since goslings imprint on the first thing they see, Bruce becomes, "Mama!"

Hilarity ensues.

In Hotel Bruce, the end-pages show Bruce's den in the fall, followed by a picture of snow covering the den. 

Spoiler alert for Mother Bruce - Bruce is heading south with his four wards for the winter because that's what geese do. After several amusing spreads of frolicking on the beach with gators, the family boards a bus and returns to the den the following spring. They discover that three mice have moved in and opened a hotel.

Bruce was not happy.

He sets about ridding his den of the intruders but things only get worse.

More hilarity ensues.

In Be Quiet!, the three squatting mice get a story. In fact, Rupert is planning a wordless story! Wordless, because wordless books are artistic. Then comes the title page with a goose piloting a plane dragging a banner reading, Rupert the Mouse Presents Be Quiet! So, he announces that it will be quiet starting now. Only he joined by Nibs, who wants to know what Rupert is doing. When he learns that Rupert is planning a wordless story, he wants to help but can't help talking. Rupert finally loses it, which attracts Thistle's attention. Thistle's exuberant commentary drives Rupert over the edge.

Be prepared for more hilarity.

The cast of characters include the aforementioned cameo by Bruce, his geese and a few other characters from the earlier books. It's also a bit of meditation on authorship and collaboration as Nibs' imagination runs amok.

I'm not sure what media was used to create the art but there is plenty of color, texture and visual humor to please the eye and tickle the funny bone. Fans of the previous books will be delighted to return to Bruce's neighborhood. If you are not already familiar with the Bruce books, remedy that asap and pre-order Be Quiet! Your story time patrons will love you for it, especially if you pull out all the stops during the read aloud. The students' aides who were in the room while I performed Be Quiet! asked what I was going to do to top my reading of it! I am not sure. It was quite fun to read aloud. I wouldn't mind doing it again. This is  crowd-pleaser and one that will elicit, "Read it again!" repeatedly.

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