The Barnes & Noble Review When a brother and sister reluctantly join their parents on a car trip, the battle begins. The backseat is the setting of a minor war as the siblings square off about crossing the territorial border of the middle seat with a dangling foot -- and the deplorable act of actually touching the enemy. Sound familiar? Many readers will find this story fraught with childhood memories, especially as the battle escalates into an imaginative free-for-all.
Author and illustrator Stephen Gammell works his magic and taps into a timeless experience, using creative illustrations and simply funny text. We meet the quarreling duo as their sweet parents escort them to the car. After Mom requests that they try to get along just this once, the two immediately clash. Gammell uses his signature style of watercolor, pastels, and pencil to evoke the true animosity between the siblings. Their faces turn progressively greener as they fight. Throughout the story, splashes of color erupt from every motion, and the detailed expression of the rambunctious tykes is sure to amuse and appeal to younger readers.
The real action takes place when their imagination takes control and everything, from car seats to beds, starts to fly. The brother turns into an astronaut and shoots his sister into space. Sis hops on a sled and throws her snowman-brother down a hill. The two are brought back to earth when Mom brings out snacks. Has the dust settled and the war ended? The last picture shows the two eating as Brother's jelly sandwich squirts its filling all over his sister. Round two should be right around the corner...
Readers follow a decidedly bumpy road as they enter Gammell's (Twigboy; Monster Mama) picture book about siblings' backseat bickering. Out for a Sunday drive, in a time well before SUVs and seatbelt laws, a family heads for the open road brother and sister in back, Mom and Dad in front. From the first shout of "Hey your foot is over!" the two kids begin a round of insult-hurling: " `Well you're a poopy face!' `Well you have booger breath!!' " The fight soon devolves into active skirmishing, then leaps into fantasy, with the children throwing bedroom furniture, then continuing their feud in outer space and, eventually, as a pair of dinosaurs. Finally, their good-natured mother offers snacks to calm them down. A closing scene depicting errant squirts of jam implies that the tussling is far from over. Gammell's distinctive pastel-pencil-watercolor compositions are a just-barely-contained cyclone of color and energy. His deployment of a rainbow palette, with occasional splatters, sometimes suggests a Spin-art machine. But his characters' faces, ranging from devilish to lightheartedly unaware, shine, as do his interpretations of the dinosaurs, a bug and a garbage truck. In balance, however, the nasty tone and unpleasant language of the text obscure much of the natural humor. Ages 3-7. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Which parent among us hasn't experienced two or more kids in the backseat of the car grumbling at each other and by the time you are at the end of the block, they are in all-out guerrilla warfare? This comical picture book has something for adults and children alike. It is a story of a car trip that most parents of young children will identify with, and they will appreciate how it hits home when it comes to family ventures. The kids' favorite part will be the flight into fantasy the book takes as the characters inflict on each other the tempting actions we adults routinely put to a stop. It is a fantasy that includes revenge and getting even with that irritating sibling who just can't do anything right at the moment. Whirling colors set the mood without words, and the expressive faces leave no doubt about where the story is going. Just don't give it to the kids in the backseat while you are driving. It is guaranteed to give them ideas. 2001, Harcourt, $16.00. Ages 3 to 7. Reviewer: Kathleen Orosz
K-Gr 3-When clueless parents suggest a car ride, defiant siblings grudgingly go along, but climb in the backseat and stake out their territories. What follows is signature Gammell: green-faced, scraggly-haired children in a raw, uncivilized state, rendered with pastels, pencils, and watercolors. The text is hand lettered. This brother and sister start fighting about minor annoyances: "Well you're a poopy face." "Well you have booger breath." The arguments quickly escalate until their bodies are no longer confined to the frame of the backseat, and they are being propelled off the page. They're contentious Vikings one moment, incensed garbage collectors the next. They are about to render one another's dinosaur personas extinct, when Mom offers sandwiches from the picnic basket. As the strategically squirting jelly hits its mark, the final page reads: "The end?" Purchase for Gammell devotees or those who like in-your-face conflict. For readers who prefer a more subtle approach, James Stevenson's Are We Almost There? (Greenwillow, 1985; o.p.) remains a delight.-Wendy Lukehart, Harrisburg School District, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.