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The Odd Eggの感想・レビュー・書評
091130 byあの１０冊 扉で叫んだ日
A duck discovers a huge speckled egg — with a baby alligator inside.
The British author Emily Gravett specializes in distinctively dissatisfied picture-book characters. With imagination, ingenuity and a lot of faith, a male duck in her latest book, “The Odd Egg,” finds a way to satisfy his maternal yearnings.
Gravett herself is no stranger to restless ambition. She quit school at 16 and spent eight years traveling around by truck, trailer and army bus. But she settled down to study illustration at Brighton University and entered her final-year projects, two picture books, “Wolves” and “Orange Pear Apple Bear,” in a contest for student illustrators. “Wolves” won, and Macmillan published both in Britain. “Wolves” also won the Kate Greenaway Medal, and Simon & Schuster published it and six more of her books in this country.
The imaginations of her picture-book protagonists tend to be in overdrive. They are all odd ducks, and none more so than the one in “The Odd Egg,” whose story unfolds in delicately rendered pencil and watercolor. A flamingo, parrot, robin, hen and owl are huddled together over their eggs in a kaffeeklatsch on the left side of a spread, with the duck all alone on the right. Wistfully, he lifts up one leg, finding nothing beneath him but his own webbed foot. With the melancholy and stoic dignity of Buster Keaton, he finds just the remedy for his yearnings when he discovers a huge speckled egg. He rolls the egg over to the other expectant mothers, hoping to be accepted by them.
But all he gets are jeers. “It’ll never hatch!” they mock as he perches on top of his mountainous egg. Like many a dreamer besieged by darts, the duck maintains his quiet faith — sometimes living inside your own head is the best refuge.
Finally, the other birthdays arrive, and the hatching of all those eggs unfolds in a series of fanned-out vertically cut pages. The odd duck calmly knits away, confident his time is coming. And when it does, his egg cracks open with an earthquake rumble. The birds all huddle together, then explode in flight — for the newest newborn is a baby alligator! The baby, like Dumbo but with teeth, is as absolutely smitten with mama as mama-papa is with it, and readers will be too.
Meanwhile a frog’s style (and limbs) are cramped in Mo Willems’s “Big Frog Can’t Fit In.” Willems, like Gravett, has been going flat out — five new books just this year — since the publication, in 2003, of his first picture book, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus!,” which won a Caldecott Honor. In his new book, we free a big frog by virtue of opening the book, where she’s being squished. The poses (engineering by Bruce Foster) will get surefire laughs at first sight of the frog: legs out, arms up, a panicked expression. No matter what kind of help the reader provides by pulling tabs to make the frog smaller, nothing works, and the center spread of the frog desperate to leap out of her confines, unable to stand it, is a highlight of comic pathos and 3-D design. With some help from her friends, a fleet of tiny frogs, a solution is constructed: a bigger book.
As exuberant and clever as the book is, it is not much more than a humorously executed situation. You could say the setup is never set up: Why does the frog even want to fit into a book? As with many clever pop-ups, the stagecraft has to pass for a story.
The 18th-century originator of movable books for children, the London bookseller Robert Sayer, called his books “Harlequinades.” In them, flaps layered over the illustrations were to be combined by readers so they could create different versions of the scenes. In Gravett’s witty works, trompe l’oeil collages and cut pages reveal character and add new levels to the story. That’s the most satisfying kind of third dimension.
Sherie Posesorski is the author of a young adult novel, “Shadow Boxing.”
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