Elmo Freem and his cat Leon are completely unaccustomed to city life and long to return to their country home. Leon the cat even refuses to walk around their apartment, confining himself to the darkness under Elmo's bed. Elmo has at least tried to adjust but with less than satisfying results. One night Leon wakes Elmo and suggests that they return to the country, and the two head for the subway. Neither seem surprised that the subway exit deposits them in the field near their old house. The two soon learn that nothing stays the same, as they meet the new inhabitants of their old home--the Johnsons. The Johnsons are reptiles that resemble a cross between a dinosaur and a crocodile. Although they are charming and welcome Elmo and Leon into their home, a short visit convinces Elmo that it takes more than a house to make a home. This pleasantly droll story is enhanced by full-color paintings reminiscent of Edward Hopper, skillfully juxtaposed with dark, textured pencil drawings. The mixed mediums work very successfully here; Teague's unique perspective is utilized magnificently both in words and pictures to produce a noteworthy first book. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-- Although Teague is a talented artist, neither his illustrations nor his verbose text makes this story work. The plot's simple enough; when Elmo Freem's family moves to the city, Elmo and his cat get homesick, and return to their old house for a visit. To their surprise, they discover that a family of dinosaurs has moved in. The boy and cat stay for a while, but leave when they eventually miss their family and old way of life. The plot offers plenty of opportunities for humor, but Teague never takes advantage of the inherent silliness in having dinosaurs pass for humans. The text is flat, and the color paintings clash with the alternating black-and-white charcoal sketches, neither of them carrying the story when the plot falls through. The dinosaur family is more of a contrivance than an integral part of the story, as the dinosaurs aren't much different than unusual humans. As it is, readers are left wondering what's the point. The Trouble with the Johnsons is that there doesn't seem to be one. --Cathryn A. Camper, Minneapolis Public Library
Mark Teague is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose books include DEAR MRS. LARUE: LETTERS FROM OBEDIENCE SCHOOL, the 2002 Book Sense Illustrated Book of the Year; DETECTIVE LARUE: LETTERS FROM THE INVESTIGATION; LARUE FOR MAYOR: LETTERS FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL; FUNNY FARM; and PIGSTY. He is also the illustrator of the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen. Mark lives in Hudson Valley, New York, with his wife and daughters.