It may be only January, but at year’s end, we’ll look back on this picture book as one of 2017’s funniest.
On the book’s title page spread, we see an ox traipsing along, sniffing a rose, and in the sky the clouds form the dramatic image of a graceful gazelle. Yep, Ox is smitten. Thus this epistolary story begins. Ox sits in his bedroom, an image of the beautiful gazelle on his wall, and writes his first letter, declaring his love for her in no uncertain terms. The entire book consists of their correspondence brought to life in Scott Campbell’s earth-toned, relaxed-line illustrations, though the gazelle’s first two letters—because she is such a stah, dahling—are impersonal form letters. Ox, however, doesn’t seem to notice: “This is an amazing coincidence! I have written you two letters, and both times you have written back using the exact same words!”
There’s so much humor here, all of it in Adam Rex’s trademark gloriously understated style. When Gazelle writes (clearly fishing for compliments) that she has many faults, Ox naively responds that she really has only one or two. When she scolds him, he responds with heartfelt thanks, calling her the “unflattering light of my life.” His intentions may be sincere, but he unknowingly stumbles with his words and she becomes exasperated. Love conquers all, though—even narcissism. Gazelle falls for Ox in a deliciously mysterious open ending, in the form of an unfinished letter. The final endpapers show the happy couple in a series of spot illustrations.
This is a book to fall in love with.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.
This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.