With its muted, desolate landscapes, 'The Rock From the Sky' is hilariously dark, especially about social relations. . . . Though this delicately deadpan book evokes children’s tales of love and companionship, its message isn’t remotely warm or fuzzy. That’s beautiful. If Samuel Beckett had written a kids’ book, this might be it.
—The New York Times Book Review
A savant of deadpan storytelling, Klassen offers a long-form picture book that is high in suspense and humor. Using the wonderful technique of color-coding the sparse and cheeky dialogue so readers know instinctively who is speaking, this book feels every bit as theatrical as the Hat trilogy. Klassen’s recognizable art style, featuring muted hues and speckled watercolors, utilizes sparse landscapes and open skies to keep the reader’s full attention on the story’s quirky characters, while carefully placed, wordless spreads heighten both tension and humor or bring resolution. His ability to create so much dark humor with so few words and to infuse his critters with such a depth of personality is part of why Klassen’s work is so beloved, as this new addition promises to be.
—Booklist Online (starred review)
In this collection of five connected short stories, clocking in at over ninety pages and composed solely of dialogue, Klassen introduces readers to a turtle, an armadillo, and a snake—all in hats, of course. . .Throughout, Klassen’s characteristically deadpan humor refuses to patronize readers; he lets them in on the joke, as always, putting them one step ahead of the protagonists. Smart, funny, and offbeat, this is quintessential Klassen.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
The most gratifying feature of this new offering by Caldecott Medalist Klassen is that there’s so much of it—96 pages of dark, Beckett-caliber comedy. . .In this pleasurable volume that’s just right for uncertain times, Klassen proves himself a top-notch student of the way that conscious beings seek to take charge of their own realities—efforts that nearly always fail and, in this world, are sometimes punctuated by falling rocks.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
If Samuel Beckett had written an early reader, it might look something like this one. . . Klassen’s animals react to their seemingly absurd—but never tragic—universe with characteristically subtle, humorous postures and eye maneuvers. The weirdness of it all exerts its own attractive force, drawing readers back to it to wonder and ponder. . .Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Klassen at his droll best, in five short chapters that are outstanding examples of pacing, less-is-more illustration, and comedic timing. . . Wacky, witty fun, this could be used to introduce a unit on humor, all done in classic Klassen digital and watercolor tones and shapes. . . Laugh-out-loud funny; children will be predicting, warning, and laughing their way through any reading and multiple rereadings of this tour de force from a master of the picture book form.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
The art is fascinatingly cinematic in a flip-book kind of way, using the static nature of the simple scenes and repeated compositions to set off the drama of small gestures, changes of position, and eye shifts; of course, this being Klassen, all three animals sport natty headgear, ranging from bijou bowlers to a lovely little beret for the snake. The sly humor and touch of sci-fi will make this a winner for reluctant later-stage readers as well as beginning readers developing their stamina, and it’ll be a great conspiratorial co-read with adults or sibs.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Mr. Klassen’s deadpan humor—in picture books such as ‘I Want My Hat Back’ (2011) and ‘We Found a Hat’ (2016)—has an existential bleakness that elementary-school-age kids for some reason find incredibly funny. For this audience, Mr. Klassen has outdone himself with ‘The Rock from the Sky’. . . Mr. Klassen’s storytelling seems simple, but it’s not: There’s all kinds of metaphysical mischief happening here. So much so that, after reading ‘The Rock from the Sky,’ even adults may be tempted to start looking around them in that shifty, Jon Klassen-ian way.
—The Wall Street Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Klassen at his droll best, in five short chapters that are outstanding examples of pacing, less-is-more illustration, and comedic timing. Unaware of impending doom from above, Turtle enjoys standing in his favorite spot. His friend Armadillo thinks he has a better spot. Disaster is avoided, but the interplay of text and images as a giant rock falls from the sky will have readers and listeners howling with delight. The subsequent chapters capture other moments in the life of Turtle, Armadillo, Snake, and of course—Alien. Wacky, witty fun, this could be used to introduce a unit on humor, all done in classic Klassen digital and watercolor tones and shapes. Also outstanding for emerging readers with visual support for the minimal text. VERDICT Laugh-out-loud funny; children will be predicting, warning, and laughing their way through any reading and multiple rereadings of this tour de force from a master of the picture book form.—John Scott, Friends Sch. of Baltimore
If Samuel Beckett had written an early reader, it might look something like this one.
In the first of five chapters, Klassen places his now-familiar turtle and armadillo (wearing bowler hats) on a minimalist gray/green landscape with one flower and—on the facing page—one plant. Personalities are revealed through occasional, slow movement across the gutter together with color-coded dialogue that feels as if it is being invented in the moment, sans script. Turtle is inflexible, not wanting to relocate, even when Armadillo moves farther away after a bad feeling about the space. It is only when Snake (sporting a beret) appears near the mammal that Turtle joins them—just in time: A huge asteroid falls on the vacated spot. Readers have watched it coming, suspense effectively building as they turn the pages. In subsequent episodes, Armadillo attempts to be helpful; miscommunication abounds; and Turtle is stubborn, proud, and jealous of the unspeaking snake, now near the rock: “I see how it is. Just enough room for two.” Turtle playing the martyr: “Maybe I will never come back.” As daylight turns into a striking, rose-tinged sunset and then a starlit evening, a life-zapping extraterrestrial (created previously in Armadillo’s futuristic forest fantasy) stalks Turtle. At the last minute, a second asteroid annihilates the creature. Klassen’s animals react to their seemingly absurd—but never tragic—universe with characteristically subtle, humorous postures and eye maneuvers. The weirdness of it all exerts its own attractive force, drawing readers back to it to wonder and ponder.
Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities. (Early reader. 5-8)