Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex,
Chu's Day
(Harper Festival, 2013)

I don't read a lot of kids' books. But put Neil Gaiman's name on the cover and I'll give it a try.

Chu's Day seemed promising, from the illustration of a pensive-looking panda in steampunk goggles on the cover to the friendly yellow background. Open the thick cover to read these auspicious words: "When Chu sneezed, bad things happened."

Well, that just sets the imagination firing, doesn't it?

We follow Chu and his worried parents to a library, a diner and a circus, all of which have allergens a-plenty. Does Chu finally sneeze and, if so, where? I'm afraid I shouldn't say.

This book is recommended for kids age 4-8 on the back cover but seems targeted at the lower end of the scale. Gaiman, in the press materials that accompanied it, says this is "the first book I've ever written for really little kids. Ones who cannot read. Ones who can only just walk. Those ones."

It's a read-aloud tale that gives the reader license to use dramatic voices and goofy expressions to get the tale across. It's perfectly accompanied by illustrations by Adam Rex, whose tiny panda faces are particularly adorable.

And it makes the subtle point -- spelled out on the back cover just to be sure you get it -- that "even the smallest child can make big things happen."


book review by
Tom Knapp

13 September 2014

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