BookPage Children’s Top Pick, March 2017
Triangle lives in a world of triangles. His home is a triangle-shaped mound of rock. The door to his home is triangle-shaped. All of the rocks around him are triangle-shaped, too—small, medium and big triangles. Triangle’s friend, Square, lives in a square-shaped rock with a square-shaped door and small, medium and big square-shaped rocks all around. Triangle heads that way one day to play “a sneaky trick” on his friend. Knowing Square is afraid of snakes, Triangle stands by his door and hisses. When Square figures out it’s Triangle, he chases him to his home—and gets stuck in Triangle’s doorway. (Remember that triangle-shaped door? A square on two legs can’t quite navigate that, can he?) But as stuck Square blocks the door, Triangle becomes scared. Turns out he’s afraid of the dark. “Now I have played a sneaky trick on you,” Square says, saying with glee that this was his plan all along.
“But do you really believe him?” asks the narrator, deliciously, on the final page.
This is funny stuff and, as to be expected from Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, delightfully off-kilter. The bit where Square can’t get through Triangle’s door is slapstick physical comedy at its best, and the book’s entire premise taps into the sense of mischief, one-upping and questions of trust that occur on playgrounds daily. (On a more basic level, preschoolers learning shapes will be thrilled to have such a funny book on hand.)
As always with Klassen, so much is in the eyes, and the eyes of Triangle and Square go a long way in communicating abundant character. In a Q&A that accompanied the advance review copy, Klassen talks about how the very placement of Triangle’s eyes implies shiftiness, given that they are lower on his face. Square’s eye placement is right in the middle—more balanced, more dependable. But we readers have two more books ahead of us (this is the first in a planned trilogy), so luckily, we’ll learn a lot more about the characters’ shifty (or were they?) intentions.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.