Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel

A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel

Roaring Brook Press

Rating: 5 stars

Last week I had the chance to chaperone a field trip with Lorelei and all of the second grade classes at her school. They were going to hear Nick Bruel, author of all the Bad Kitty books, speak at an independent bookstore (Politics & Prose) in Washington, DC. Did I want to come along? Um....twist my arm...YES!

So I rode on a big yellow bus alongside some happy kids who then sat criss-cross-apple-sauce in front of an author I honestly didn't know much about. Despite the fact that it's the second best selling series for Scholastic, Bad Kitty isn't a title that lures me. But my kids have read them at school and think they're a hoot. As Nick Bruel stood and read from his most recent Bad Kitty book (Bad Kitty Puppy's Big Day) I definitely saw and appreciated the humor in the series--I think the chapter books are on the pulse of what kids want (read: something slightly inappropriate and therefore wildly funny).

We took his magic rubies! His rubies! His rubies!
We took his magic rubies! And now we have to FLEEEEE!
But then Nick Bruel read from his other recent book, A Wonderful Year, and I was struck by how it could be silly and zany ("outright buffoonery" said one review) it was one moment, and then thoughtful and sweet the next instant.

It's a picture book about the seasons, divided into four parts, linked together by an unnamed girl.

Nick Bruel "had me at hello" in a way when, on the first double page spread, the girl is super excited that it's Winter and it's snowing. Her mother tells her to put on her boots. Her father tells her to put on her earmuffs. Her dog tells her to put on her snowpants. Her purple rhinoceros Louise tells her to put on her gloves. Her can of beans tells her to put on her coat. Her tree tells her to put on a sweater. And then she opens the door and sees...that it's Spring. It's taken her so long to get dressed that winter is now over.

Can't you hear the crowd of criss-cross-apple-sauce sitters roar their approval? My face broke out into a grin. I laughed loudly, too. It was great! Brilliant! Silly!

Spring involves a very catchy--it'll be in your head and on your lips for days--sing-songy poem about a "demented fairy" (that's the girl again) and her dog and the imaginary adventures they are having as a princess and a handsome dog. Then they run into their pal, a cat, who is sleeping, who would rather nap than play. His reluctant participation is pretty funny. Hearing Nick Bruel read it out loud was even funnier.

"Hurry, hurry, hurry!" says Louise.
Summer is perhaps the zaniest of all--the girl and her purple rhino Louise are walking down the sidewalk on a hot day when suddenly the girl melts. Louise slurps up the girl and spits her into a cup, which she puts in the freezer to cool off. While waiting, Louise is excited to watch what the kids know is the least exciting show on earth: the can of beans show. (Random!) The girl waits a little too long in the freezer...but does end up cooling off.

And then there's Fall. The girl sits and reads under a tree. And, while reading, has a conversation with the tree about the book she's reading which is, coincidentally, about a girl and a tree. The tree is alarmed to hear that the leaves on the tree in the book turn colors and eventually fall, leaving the tree completely bare. As the girl gets up to walk away, the tree calls out, "you should put on a sweater!"

So funny and random and silly and thought-provoking. That Nick Bruel writes some funny stuff, and it was great to hear him speak to this crowd of kids. A Wonderful Year is his first non-Bad Kitty book that he's written in five years--all four of us kidlit-book-lovers in this house hope there are more where this comes from!

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