November 22, 2011

What goes up

By Oliver Jeffers
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One thing leads to another, an adage proven delightfully true in Stuck, the latest in a string of visually distinctive and endearing picture books by author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers.

A native of Northern Ireland who lives and works in Brooklyn, Jeffers has won awards and admirers for several previous books that showcase his imaginative style, including How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy.

In Stuck, young Floyd—a stick figure sporting a red-checked shirt—starts a crescendo of trouble when he gets his kite stuck in a tree. Throwing a shoe to dislodge the kite, Floyd finds that the shoe gets stuck, too. He decides to throw his other shoe, then a cat named Mitch, a ladder, a bucket of paint . . . and on and on, until the tree is cluttered with objects large and small, including the proverbial kitchen sink.

Jeffers’ childlike lettering style and brightly colored mixed-media illustrations give Floyd’s misadventures a joyful spin. The conundrum of the stuck kite is a problem to be solved, not a reason for irritation or despair. From the cover—which shows the letters of the title entwined in the branches of a tree—to the final moonlit illustration, Jeffers’ artwork is quirky and fun, adding to the story’s considerable charm. One page shows the resourceful boy balancing a huge orangutan on his head as he prepares to lob it into the tree. On another spread, a friendly whale who happens to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time” chats with Floyd before getting his trip to the treetop.

The book has something of a surprise ending (involving a saw) but we’ll keep our account of Stuck spoiler-free. Suffice it to say that for Jeffers’ fans and those new to his work, his latest picture book is a high-flying delight.

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By Oliver Jeffers
ISBN 9780399257377

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