Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cowboy and Octopus

I own almost all the books that combine the amazing talents of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. From the first collaborative work, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, to the enjoyably energetic Math Curse, I have loved all of them. They have a humor and a tone that is unusual for most children's books. The fantastic collaborations are infused with a bit of darkness and bit of satire. But more than anything they are fun. So it is a bit of a surprise for me to read Cowboy and Octopus. 

Perhaps I am simply not the target audience for this book but I didn't enjoy it. The short snippets could have been funny but somehow just didn't have that Scieszka spark. The illustrations, while inventive like all of Lane Smith's work is, didn't seem to fit with the theme of the book. The impression that I got from the book was that the two authors were trying to just come up with the silliest idea possible and just turned out whatever they thought of. Even worse, it seems like it was just published for the money. 

The book uses short scenes to show how Cowboy met Octopus. They learn how to seesaw together, eat dinner together (beans, beans, and more beans), tell each other jokes, and work on Halloween costumes together. The scenes jump from one to another (like The Stinky Cheese Man but without the fun) but most of the scenes seem so silly and pointless. Perhaps the duo were attempting to just create something that was so silly and odd it would be funny. 

The only other book from the duo that I have not had a chance to read is Squids Will be Squids. I am holding out higher hopes for that book. Again I have always loved the work they do. There are very few authors out there that are as funny as Jon Scieszka. And there are very few illustrators who are as inventive and memorable as Lane Smith. There is a reason these two have been so successful together. I'll keep my eyes open for future work from the two. But this one won't be sitting on my shelf. 

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