Fans of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series will delight in the latest book by American comedian Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Toronto graphic artist Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Echoing Willems, Black’s story is constructed around the dialogue of an unlikely couple, in this case a small girl and a potato. The text is perfectly complemented by Ohi’s quirky minimalist drawings.
The girl is bored in the ultra-whiny, floor-sprawled way perfected by small children. When she finds a potato, her interest is momentarily piqued, but how much entertainment can a potato possibly provide? Turns out not much, because this potato is bored too: “I have to hang out with a kid,” he says. “Kids are boring.”
So begins the girl’s effort to convince the potato otherwise, by showing him all the amazing things kids can do, including cartwheels, ninja kicks, and handstands. Plus, she tells him, kids can imagine stuff. Ohi has created a marvellous fantasy backdrop to accompany each of the girl’s daydreams, including a castle and fire-breathing dragon, a jungle scene, a scene in outer space, and a couch-turned–pirate ship (with the potato forced to walk the plank).
The potato, however, remains unimpressed. “Boring. Boring. Boring,” he responds, even as the girl becomes a scientist, a rock star, a rampaging monster. She finally storms off in a rage, obviously not bored anymore. The potato is left alone, until he meets a flamingo (the punchline to a joke from earlier in the book). And that flamingo is – you guessed it – bored.
Ohi’s depiction of the little girl, with her Charles Schultz–inspired big head and scraggly pigtails, will appeal to young readers, as will Black’s goofy humour. Kids will come away from this excellent book exactly the opposite of bored.