Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tea Rex

It was a picture of a confused looking Tyrannosaurus Rex staring at the tea in his hat that sold me on this book. It was such a perfect image: the soft colors, the concerned look on his face, his tail holding the teapot and spilling it on the floor. It was absurd and gentile and wonderful. I don't know how else to describe this book. It's elegant and absurd and the most fun.

Tea Rex by Molly Idle is the story of how to behave at a tea party, as demonstrated by two very proper children and a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex. Rex hasn't mastered all of the fine motor skills needed to be a perfect guest but that doesn't stop Cordelia, our host. Her brother is a little more willing to be silly, a little less polished. By the end of the party the lovely table in the living room is in shambles. But everyone has had a wonderful time and the guest shows his appreciation. A mix of how-to ("Take turns making small talk") and chaos.

As I mentioned before it was Molly Idle's colored pencils drawings that brought me into the book. Molly is a master with color, as evidenced not just with Tea Rex but with her Flora books. These illustrations are guaranteed to make children giggle. Cordelia's giant hat is enough to make any child giggle, even if it wasn't for the impossibly large t. rex. The settings are lovely, even old-fashioned. But the action is all hilarious. The scene where they try to squeeze Mr. Rex through the front door sets the perfect pitch for the book. The door strains and the children are pulling with all their might. The image of T. Rex from behind, sitting on the tiniest of chairs is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. All the characters are so expressive. The toothy grin of T. rex can show a full range of emotions. Cordelia and her brother are simply perfect.

Idle's wording is sparse and understated for the action happening in the pictures. "It's good to have extra cups and napkins on accidents can happen," are the quiet words that accompany a two page spread that shows us Mr. Rex experimenting with any sort of vessel he can find for tea, before settling on Cordelia's giant hat. It's a simple read-aloud but one that will have kids (and adults) giggling along. A wonderful book.