|What if ... ?|
Author: Browne, Anthony
The tale of a boy's anxiety as he heads to his first big party.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: LG
Reading Level: 1.70
Points: .5 Quiz: 168029
Kirkus Reviews (+) (06/15/14)
School Library Journal (09/01/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (09/14)
The Hornbook (00/09/14)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2014 “Joe was going to his first big party,” and since young Joe is not a party guy, he’s pretty nervous. As he and his mother walk along looking for the house (they misplaced the invitation with the house number), Joe catastrophizes to his mother (“What if I don’t like the food? . . . What if they play scary games?”), who patiently reassures her son. And, in fact, it’s Mom who’s anxious once Joe’s off at the party, but they’re both delighted when event’s end reveals a beaming Joe who can’t wait to have a party of his own. Since this is Anthony Browne, this fairly straightforward story becomes a fantastical proto-gothic tale in its gouache and crayon artwork. Joe and his mother, in subdued nocturnal blues, peer into the front rooms of houses on the street that are simultaneously comically unexpected and precisely what Joe fears: a bacchanal of porcine jerks engage in horseplay around a weirdly set table (as a pig hides underneath) as he worries about food, and a medieval roister ensues with life-sized snakes and ladders (referring to the British version of the game Chutes and Ladders) as Joe tremulously asks about games. The neat geometric framing of the houses, crafted with Browne’s usual delicate precision, both controls and emphasizes the surreal absurdity of the strange living rooms’ contents, cunningly keeping anxiety at arm’s length without completely letting it go. Even non-anxious kids have experienced the utter weirdness of other people’s houses, and audiences will be amused by the conceit and understanding of Joe’s trepidation. DS - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 09/01/2014 A window filled with swimming sharks. A room swarming with snakes and people dressed like Hieronymus Bosch’s peasants. A batlike shadow spanning the front of a darkened house. These are just some of the bizarre images that confront a small boy and his mother as they make their way to a birthday party about which the boy is anxious. The mother and son’s quest to find the house makes physical the childhood fear of the unknown—what goes on in other people’s houses, and is it like what goes on in the child’s own? Like some of the work of Maurice Sendak, former British Children’s Laureate Browne is unafraid to present sinister images, and some young readers might be disturbed. The fact that the boy ends up having a great time at the party won’t erase the unsettling images from the minds of readers, but it may also offer assurance that some dark paths do end in light. This could also work as a wonderful introduction for older children to both graphic novels and surrealist painters. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 09/01/2014 PreS-Gr 2—Young Joe is apprehensive about attending his friend Tom's evening birthday party. He lost the invitation, remembers the street name, but forgot the house number. His mother assures him they'll find Tom's home if they just walk along the street and look in windows. As he and his mother search, Joe peppers her with questions that reveal his anxiety: "What if I don't like the food?" and "What if there's someone at the party I don't know?" His mother patiently attempts to assuage his uneasiness. Joe's fears feed his imagination, causing him to see disquieting visions in the houses they pass, including possible aliens, a huge elephant, and slithering snakes. Once they find the right place and Joe joins the party, it's his mother who begins to have doubts about leaving him. The intriguing gouache and crayon illustrations are enjoyable to study as Browne subtly inserts strange images, including a rabbit on a roof and the shadow of a menacing bear. The common fear of dealing with a new situation is handled well, and Browne's treatment of the topic will have readers nodding with understanding.—Maryann H. Owen, Children's Literature Specialist, Mt. Pleasant, WI - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.