The Straight Line Wonderby Mem Fox, Marc Rosenthal
Despite the admonitions of his friends, a straight line enjoys expressing himself by twirling in whirls, pointing his joints, and creeping in heaps.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyA straight character literally learns to bend a little in this chipper fable about being true to one's self. In a fantasy world inhabited by straight lines that are distinguished only by their hats, hair or manner of dress, one rebel decides to "jump in humps," much to the astonishment of his pals. Disregarding others' opinions of him, the rakish fellow goes on to "twirl in whirls," "point his joints" and "creep in heaps." In a climactic spread, his audacity lands him a role in a famous director's film (Rosenthal shows the standout line in a spotlight), and ultimately he earns the admiration of his once dubious peers. Fox's praise for individuality is clearly expressed, and her use of repetition makes for a jaunty read-aloud. Rosenthal has indeed worked wonders with his given characters. He succeeds in attributing the thick black lines with personality through a shock of wild hair, wire-rim spectacles or a bright baseball cap. India ink and watercolor scenes feature strong blocks of muted green, smoky blue, mauve, burnt orange and black that take on a 1940s period look. His images of lines driving cars, walking the streets and conversing will bring on the chuckles. And together, Fox and Rosenthal reassure children that it's okay to cross that line and express who you really are. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jan LiebermanListen for the musical beat in Mem Fox's stories. In this her latest, a "straight line" dances out his dreams to the chagrin of his two best friends, also straight lines. "Don't be different!" they warn. Unable to control himself, the innovator begins "jumping in humps, pointing his joints, twirling in whirls," etc. His creativity wins him a movie contract, and he becomes a star. He never has to be a straight line again. Read this to teens. A perfect blending of zany illustrations that fit this fey story. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly are smiling. Use Singing in the Rain to set the mood.
Children's Literature - Sheree Van VreedeThis is the story of a straight line gone astray. This line wants to be anything but straight. And, despite the condemnations of his two best friends (also straight lines), he keeps trying to bend and turn. This is a follow-your-heart story with bright, colorful illustrations.
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 1-3This disappointing offering from Australia has a `50s look and a very pointed moral. Three lines are the best of friends. On a whim, one of them starts "jumping in humps, twirling in whirls, pointing his joints," and "creeping in heaps," much to the mortification of the other two straight-arrows. One day, a famous film director discovers the expressive line and makes him a star. That's it folks. The repetition is monotonous and there are no surprises. The India ink and dark watercolor cartoons are lively, but cannot salvage this tired story line. There are so many other picture books about the value of being true to oneself that this one is unnecessary.Carolyn Jenks, First Parish Unitarian Church, Portland, ME
Kirkus ReviewsThe illustrator of Daniil Kharms's First, Second (1996) rises ingeniously to the challenge of a story Fox (Feathers and Fools, 1996, etc.) published in Australia ten years ago. Weary of being straight, a line goes off "jumping in humps, twirling in whirls, pointing his joints, and springing in rings." Friends chase after, begging him to "Stay straight, silly!" because "People will stare!"but when his gyrations blow the beret off a famous film director, off he goes to fame and fortune. In a style reminiscent both of 1930s cartoons and 1960s underground "comix," Rosenthal populates uncrowded streets with straight, black lines, cleverly differentiated by height and headgear, posed either stiffly upright or at casual angles. Fox and Rosenthal make a lively pairand, is there a subtext here? Let readers decide.
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