The Barnes & Noble Review
Shrek creator William Steig collaborates with illustrator Harry Bliss on an amusing, thoughtful book that explores one of life's most penetrating queries. What would you rather be -- a stick or a stone? A snake or a crocodile? A rabbit magician asks these shape-shifting questions while conjuring up some startling surprises.
Sitting in front of a black top hat, a boy and girl gaze in wonderment while a wand-waving hare whips up objects, people, animals, and types of weather -- all exhibits for his pressing inquiry. Other questions include whether you'd choose to be a boy or a girl, a mouse or an elephant, a moon or a sun; and at the end, the kids (who only speak a few times) are asked to think about whether they'd prefer being alone or together.
With cartoonlike illustrations set against a stark white background, Steig and Bliss's book is sure to get kids' wheels turning. Steig's comparison game is thought-provoking and inspired, while Bliss's artwork offers a blissful dose of imagination with a hint of surrealism. An excellent springboard for other imaginative games, Which Would You Rather Be? offers a fun respite from bad-weather weekends, lackluster storytimes, or ho-hum car trips. (Matt Warner)
In this wonderfully economical exercise, a shrewd question-and-answer format harmonizes with fine-tuned images. On almost every page, a big gray rabbit faces two children across an upside-down top hat. The rabbit is matter-of-fact, not cute. Voice bubbles contain its deadpan questions ("Which would you rather be?/ A stick/ or a stone?/ A cat/ or a dog?"), as each possibility emerges from the hat and the children react with a word or a gesture. When the dog chases the cat, the girl shoots an irritated look at her laughing friend, who shouts, "A dog!" As a hockey player crawls from the hat ("A boy"), the displeased girl crosses her arms. Her scowl turns to a competitive smirk when the next question ("or a girl?") suggests the skater could be female. After "an elephant" fills the page, only the boy's departing foot can be seen as the children retreat; when "a crocodile" lunges out, a well-placed voice bubble and the croc's gaze indicate that all three players have exited stage right. Bliss (illus. of A Fine, Fine School) composes his wry illustrations on a blank white ground in the fluid style of Charles M. Schulz or Crockett Johnson, and he loads his characters' every movement with subtle meaning. As in his Pete's a Pizza, Steig provides many more options than hard-and-fast rules, leaving the continuation of this game to the bemused audience. Ages 3-7. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-Throughout this picture book, a young girl and boy sit cross-legged around a top hat while a magic-wand-wielding gray rabbit asks: "Which would you rather be?" Some of the choices are a stick or a stone, a mouse or an elephant, an elbow or a knee, and all of the possibilities emerge, one at a time, from the hat. For the most part, the children don't answer; occasionally they do, or seem to. For example, in the cat versus dog dilemma, the girl smiles and reaches toward the feline, while the boy's body language and the accompanying text say, "A dog!" Later, both children agree that being a kid is favorable to being a grown-up. Bliss's big, bold, full-color illustrations against a white background carry the story line, since the minimal text appears in dialogue balloons. Children will enjoy imagining and formulating their own responses to the prompts.-Carol L. MacKay, Camrose Public Library, Alberta, Canada Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
One New Yorker cartoonist gives a younger (of course, Methuselah would be younger) one a chance to show his chops. And the chops are considerable. With an interrogatory text running to just a few words per page, readers are asked in dialogue balloons whether they'd prefer to be a stick or a stone, an elbow or a knee, rain or snow, thunder or lightning, and so on. Bliss (A Fine, Fine School, 2001, etc.) reduces the actors in his painted scenes to a bare minimum-a magic hat, from which a plush rabbit with a wand conjures each alternative, and a boy and a girl wordlessly (until the end) reacting to their choices. Each form, each change of expression, is modeled with both spirit and exquisite skill, in subtle gradations of light and color. The final query, "Would you rather be alone . . . or together?" leaves the children undecided-an open invitation to readers to ponder this life-shaping choice. This thoughtful, though less gleefully silly, alternative to John Burningham's classic Would You Rather? (1978) showcases an up-and-coming illustrator with plenty of promise. (Picture book. 5-9)