Anybody reading children’s books these days? No? Then this post isn’t for you. See you next time. Yes? Then read on.
I came across Chris Van Dusen’s work a few years ago with the Mercy Watson pig books. He was the illustrator for this series, not the the author, who was Kate DiCamillo. But I don’t like the Mercy Watson books, however. They’re BORING. But my kids like them, so I let them read a few. I tend to agree with C. S. Lewis though, who once said, “If an adult finds a children’s book boring, then it sucks.” Ok, those weren’t his exact words, but something like that. *
Anyway, I do really like Van Dusen’s two books that he both wrote and illustrated, If I Built a Car and If I Built a House. They rhyme after all and are fun to read. These books have great illustrations and articulate every kid’s dream of cars sporting swimming pools and houses featuring no-gravity flying rooms.
So, since I liked those two books, I thought I’d check out a few more Van Dusen books. He has a Mr. Magee series, which is ok and Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit, which is fine. They’re worth checking out at a library. But his Hattie & Hudson is bosh. First of all, it doesn’t rhyme. Secondly, Hattie is disobedient, sneaking out of her house at night. And thirdly, I don’t like big sea monsters portrayed as kind and misunderstood creatures. Nope. Quit mixing up your symbols, Van Dusen. Sea monsters and dragons should be evil. Always. Don’t agree with me? Read Michael O’Brien’s Landscape With Dragons and drop me a line. (Maybe I’ll do a post on that some day. By the way, if you have children, you should really read that O’Brien book.)
Van Dusen’s The Circus Ship is entertaining, however, and mostly appropriate. Once again, the pictures are beautiful, and it rhymes. There is a really fun page where one must find all 15 animals that are hiding from the terrible circus boss. It’s great. The only problem I have with this book is that all the animals are of course friendly. Even a big, fat snake. Humph! Snakes belong in the sea monster and dragon category – just plain evil. The only reason why I could still recommend this book is that he’s not saying anything at all about the snakes actually being good. He’s only showing that they can be tamed, which is true.
One final note about The Circus Ship. I know some of you are sensitive about anything circus related. I know I am. This is because shriners are typically associated with circuses and most of us don’t want anything to do with shriners, as they’re in turn connected to the Masons. Yikes. If you’re a Catholic, that should really bother you. That said, I see no such connection between this particular book’s circus and the shriners.