Once Upon a Banana


Everyday street signs act as deadpan captions for the slapstick happenings in this ingenious picture book that is hilariously told in street signs. Go!

The sign says: “Put litter in its place.” But someone isn’t paying attention. He drops a banana peel on the ground—and a series of comical slips, spills, and falls are set hilariously into motion. First the grocer, then the painter, next the bicycle messenger, and then—oh, no—not the baby in the...

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Everyday street signs act as deadpan captions for the slapstick happenings in this ingenious picture book that is hilariously told in street signs. Go!

The sign says: “Put litter in its place.” But someone isn’t paying attention. He drops a banana peel on the ground—and a series of comical slips, spills, and falls are set hilariously into motion. First the grocer, then the painter, next the bicycle messenger, and then—oh, no—not the baby in the carriage! An entire town turned upside down, all by a banana peel!

Caldecott Medalist David Small and award-winning author Jennifer Armstrong have created a roller-coaster ride of a picture book told in rhyming street signs that will tickle and delight readers from beginning to end, over and over again.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hilarious...a glorious escapade packed with child appeal."

"Small set up a hilarious chain of events...breathless visual pacing."

Jessica Bruder
This rambunctious tale, by Jennifer Armstrong, with illustrations by David Small, is almost wordless but packed with physical comedy. When a monkey escapes from his owner, swipes a banana, then tosses the peel on the sidewalk, it sets off a chain of clumsy chaos that topples townsfolk like dominoes…The characters' facial expressions؏from frustration to befuddlement, anxiety to glee—have a depth and clarity that will be familiar to fans of Small's earlier work, particularly the Caldecott Medal-winning So You Want to Be President? His watercolor panels are full of small, lovely moments…And despite the bedlam in every panel, Small manages to keep the plot clear.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Armstrong (Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat) and Small (So You Want to be President?) join forces for this sublimely silly wordless story, which brings to mind a silent short by Laurel and Hardy (who make a cameo appearance). The action gets underway even before the title page, when a street juggler's pet monkey runs off and steals a deli's outdoor stall. Blithely ignoring the sign reading "Please put litter in its place," the monkey tosses the banana peel on the sidewalk, thus triggering a book-long, slapstick-rich chase that covers an entire city center and ensnares a cavalcade of characters, including a passel of dogs, an airborne baby and a banana-packed dump truck. The running joke is that none of the street signs meant to impose order on urban life ("4 way stop," "Keep off the grass!" "Look both ways") has any effect on damping the mounting chaos, and in the twist ending, the juggler winds up a hero. Small's loose yet precise ink lines and watercolor wash seem ideal for these crowded streets where anarchy abounds. He clearly relishes choreographing the huge, motley cast and effortlessly connects the geography of one spread to another; the pages overflow with enough pratfalls and comic asides to reward many readings. Even the closing endpapers play a role, tracing the chain of events. Ages 4-8. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
This text-less sequence of hilarious events begins on the jacket, as a juggler tosses balls in the air, a monkey on his shoulder. The monkey escapes across the front endpapers and approaches a bunch of bananas on the next spread, the juggler in hot pursuit. As we turn to the "beginning" pages, the delighted monkey eats a stolen banana, tossing the peel aside. Then the wild consequences really begin to mount. As the monkey leads the chase, the inevitable slip on the peel leads to a falling painter, a loose grocery cart and some dogs, scattered bodies, a skate-boarding judge, a baby in danger, a wild crash, and flying bananas for all. Small is not satisfied to create a simple sequential visual adventure; his rather loose, black line and transparent watercolors guarantee bedlam by stuffing each scene with the full panoply of city details, including a variety of buildings, an upset cart, and scores of other flying objects, along with clearly delineated characters. And, in fine cinema graphic form, he creates anticipation of each page turn's next adventure by subtly introducing in advance a piece of the next scene. The visual tale he tells is great slapstick comedy. The only words are the various signs of the city that are passed in the action. The back endpapers offer a map on which to follow the race, complete with a numbered key. Great fun!
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 4-In this hilarious book, a monkey's craving for a banana turns the streets of a busy city upside down. The mostly wordless tale is told through rhyming street signs and delightfully detailed watercolor paintings. On the first spread, a juggling performer, dressed in a motley jester's costume, watches as his wild-eyed monkey runs away. The creature heads down the street and bounds into a bin filled with bananas. While the grocer rails at the monkey's owner, the animal runs across the street clutching his prize. Next, it tosses the peel onto the sidewalk near a trash-can sign that reads, "Please Put Litter in Its Place" as a motorcycle sputters past with two tough-faced riders. After pulling over under another sign ("No Parking in This Space"), the pair dismount, and, of course, the driver slips on the peel. When this and future mishaps occur, suspense, thrills, chaos, and comedy result. Readers will soon understand that all of the background characters-small figures holding cell phones, Rollerblading, pushing baby carriages-will soon be drawn onto center stage. The book ends with an aerial map of the city block and a key identifying the locations of the signs, allowing kids to retrace the action. A glorious escapade packed with child appeal.-Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a tour de force of visual sequencing captioned only by a set of rhyming street and shop signs, Small sets up a hilarious chain of events along a busy city street. The action starts on the front endpapers as a street performer's monkey snatches a banana from a fruit stand and tosses the peel onto the sidewalk. This sets off an escalating ruckus that moves around the block (and is actually mapped out on the rear endpapers), involving pedestrians, a painter atop a ladder, cars and trucks, dogs (lots of dogs), much flying through the air and a hurtling carriage with a delighted baby on board (for part of the way, anyway). Composed in fluent pen lines and watercolor brushwork, the scenes are chock full of comically dismayed characters, and surprisingly easy to follow despite the frenetic activity. In addition, for all its brevity, the text sets up a strong background rhythm-"4-Way Stop / Barber Shop / One-Way Street / NO BARE FEET"-that complements the breathless visual pacing. Ultimately, a disastrous encounter between a careening garbage truck and an entire shipment of bananas brings the tale back to where it began, whereupon all of the participants, human and otherwise, gather in a closing spread for an amicable bananafest. More fun than a barrel of . . . well. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689859519
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
  • Publication date: 7/23/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 967,517
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 11.50 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Armstrong is the author of numerous award-winning picture books and novels. Her works include Hugh Can Do and Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat (both ALA Notable books); The Dreams of Mairhe Mehan (a BCCB Blue Ribbon Book); and Black-Eyed Susan (a New York Public Library Best Book). Her first novel, Steal Away, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Notable book, and a Golden Kite Honor book. Other titles include Pockets, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, Magnus at the Fire, Photo by Brady, and Once Upon a Banana. She lives in New York State.

David Small is the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George. He received Caldecott Honors for The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo. He’s illustrated dozens of other award-winning books, including That Book Woman by Heather Henson and The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. He lives in Michigan with his wife, Sarah Stewart.

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