Much has been made lately of the so-called (and very popular) “meta” trend in picture books, which feature intrusive narrators who acknowledge that the action is happening in . . . well, a book. Snappsy the Alligator is one such story, and it’s likely that, when 2016 is over, we’ll look back on it as one of the funniest picture books of the year. It definitely kicks off 2016 in high spirits.
The main character, Snappsy, is doing one thing, and the narrator is telling a story that altogether does not jibe with Snappsy’s actions or feelings. Furthermore, Snappsy is aware of the narrator and talks back to him (and readers). For instance, in the beginning, we’re told Snappsy isn’t “feeling like himself,” yet Snappsy turns to the reader to say, “This is terrible! I’m just hungry!” And so it goes, with very funny results. At one point, commenting on the picture-book form itself, Snappsy says in desperation to the narrator, “You’re an awful narrator. You’re just describing what you see in the illustrations.” Eventually, Snappsy snaps, echoing the book’s title: “You know what? I did not ask to be in this book!” The narrator talks Snappsy into throwing a party and, in the end, appears on his doorstep.
Julie Falatko, never getting in her own way with too much cleverness, charms readers with her hapless but sincere main character, who is on to the unreliable narrator from the very first page. This is the picture-book debut for Tim Miller, whose cartoon illustrations channel James Marshall in fresh and exciting ways, and whose deadpan humor is spot-on—especially the moments where Snappsy stares incredulously at us or the out-of-control narrator’s disembodied voice. The book’s cover varies from the jacket—be sure to take a peek—and the difference is laugh-out-loud funny: Snappsy is just trying to sleep, looks at readers and says, “Hey! Do you mind?”
It’s utterly irresistible, and I hope we see more from Snappsy in the future. (We’ll have to talk to the narrator about that.)
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.