In Print : Robots and rodents: Two new children's books
A new twist on an old classic
"Watch Out For Wolfgang," story and illustrations by Paul Carrick, Charlesbridge, February, 2009. $16.95
Bankrolled by their mother robot, Rod, Slick and Dudley ("Dud"), three very different brother bots, each fashion a safe haven to keep Wolfgang the Recycler at bay. But in Paul Carrick's futuristic update of "The Three Little Pigs," all the huffing and puffing is replaced by wit and wiliness, as Wolfgang wreaks havoc on the robots.
As author and illustrator, Mr. Carrick, born and raised in Edgartown, demonstrates his version of the talents of his parents, his late father, Donald Carrick, and Carol Carrick, an award-winning illustrating and writing team who produced close to 50 children's books.
Mr. Carrick, who lives and works in Boston as a fantasy artist, realistically illustrated two of his mother's books, "Mothers Are Like That" (Clarion Books, 2000), and "The Polar Bears Are Hungry," (Clarion Books, 2002), followed by creating constructions for "Wired," by Anastasia Suen, (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007).
In his new book, Mr. Carrick reveals his distinctive personality, and most notably, his humor. Rather than drawing the characters, he constructs the scenes from scraps of plastic, wires, and other salvaged materials. Once on the page, his labors are not readily apparent, although they lend an interesting, if moody, appearance to the depictions of joints, bolts, and jagged edges.
Rod is practical and tidy, Slick is showy, and Dudley - well, Dudley admits: "I've always wanted to live in a h-u-g-e pile of mud Beep. I'd love to smell the smokestacks wafting in and feel the mud squish through my gears Buzz."
Slick shook his head. "You must have some bolts missing..."
And in a twist, it is the seemingly inept and foolish brother who prevails.
In appearance and text, as well as in subject, "Watch Out for Wolfgang" is contemporary reading. It avoids the predictable, inserts an almost wry humor, and handles mayhem with nonchalance. Children who enjoy tinkering, taking things apart and reassembling them, are candidates to become fans of Mr. Carrick.
A mouse to the rescue
The (Mis)Adventures of Malcolm Meadow Mouse, stories and illustrations by Norman Reed, Xlibris, 2008, 42 p.p.)
Eighty-five-year-old Norman Reed might serve as a worthy subject for one of his own books: a creative and articulate Oak Bluffs resident since 1953 (year-round since 1986), a world traveler, watercolor painter, author, World War II veteran of United States Army Air Force, and former employee of the United States Geological Survey.
His first book, "A Place Fit Only for Refuse" (1985), is a collection of stories about some of the people he met during his dump-picking excursions on the Vineyard. His second book, "A Place Where the Eelgrass Flows" (1987), centers on the importance of the fragile aquatic plants.
Mr. Reed recently self-published his fourth book, "The (Mis)Adventures of Malcolm Meadow Mouse," a 42-page children's chapter book. The book is embellished by a collection of his colorful sketches and deft illustrations made over several years. He has a sensitive hand, and the mice, gulls, skunks, even the crab are subtly endowed with personalities
Each of the 10 chapters tells one of the anthropomorphic Malcolm's adventures, and resolves it: being locked in the buttery for the night; salvaging a toy sailboat; dragging a quahog home for the family's dinner; untangling a halter that has a pony trapped.
The gentle stories demonstrate the author's sensitivity to nature and the environment, and his attention to the details: "He knew something must be happening along the edge of the meadow where the tall blades of grass nestle up to the fallen bits of twigs and logs where the forest begins."
But the action is often wrapped in passive observations, and small details dilute the tension. Still, one is impressed by Mr. Reed's imagination and diligence in bringing his efforts to fruition.
"The (Mis)adventures of Malcolm the Meadow Mouse" is available on the Internet on Xlibris.com website, but Mr. Reed remains rather nonchalant about marketing his work. "I would like to see this book sold, but more for the recognition than the money," he says. "Children like to read about little animals."