CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 13. . . .November 27, 2009.
Robert Munsch. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2009.
32 pp., pbk., $7.99.
Animal sounds-Juvenile fiction.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Tara Williston.
One night, Isaac and Elena read a book about lions.
The next morning, Isaac's mother said, "Good morning, Isaac. Good morning, Elena. Time to get up!"
Isaac said, "ROAAAAARRRR!"
Elena said, "ROAAAAARRRR!"
"Oh dear!" said their mom.
"What sort of animals are you today?"
"Lions!" said Isaac. "We are lions today."
"Right," said their mom. "My kids are lions."
Is there a kid out there who doesn't like to roar like a lion every now and again? Highly unlikely! -- Which is exactly why Robert Munsch's and Michael Martchenko's latest picture book collaboration, Roar!, will strike a silly chord with kids everywhere.
In Roar!, siblings Elena and Isaac read a book about lions and then spend the following day being lions, roaring at anything and everything. When Teacher proposes a nature walk in the schoolyard of their urban elementary school, the impish brother and sister soon have all their classmates roaring along with them at all the small animals the children encounter on their walk. "Don't roar at the animals!" says Teacher…until at last Elena realizes "Hey! Teacher is not an animal. Let's roar at her!" Such a mighty roar frightens off the teacher, and, with the one adult on the scene dispatched, the children are free to scoop up a spunky schoolyard mouse they've found and take turns bringing it home on weekends. And so the book ends, the final illustration of one spoiled mouse kicking back and relaxing inside a decked-out dollhouse (well-stocked cheese plate at his side), while Isaac and Elena merrily practice their musical instruments nearby and baby sister and Mom look on in glee and puzzlement, respectively.
Roar! is another bit of funny, fluffy stuff from Munsch and Martchenko. There is no moral to this story, nor is there a need for one. The playfulness and nonsense spirit of Roar! perfectly reflect the playfulness and imagination of young children, who can and do "become" lions and roar their way through a day, just because.
Roar! features author Robert Munsch's signature silly onomatopoeic language and use of repetition, techniques that hearken back to his early classics -- Mortimer comes to mind, to name just one. Munsch quickly establishes a humorous language pattern for the story: the children "TIP-TOE, TIP-TOE, TIP-TOE, TIP-TOE" around the schoolyard, then an animal is spotted ("It's so cute! It's so cute! It's so cute!" say all the girls), then Isaac or Elena or all the kids "go 'ROAAAAARRRR!,'" the animal yells "AHHHHHHHHHH!" and runs away -- "WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP" -- and does not come back. Finally, Teacher admonishes the group: "DON'T ROAR AT THE ANIMALS!" With every repetition of this pattern, the humour of the story builds, until its climax when the tables are turned and one animal -- the mouse -- roars back, inspiring the kids to roar at their teacher and send her running away - "WAP WAP WAP WAP," etc. - never to come back.
Michael Martchenko's watercolours match the silliness of Munsch's story. In Martchenko’s typical cartoonish style, the frightened animals' eyes bug out to an impossible size before they flee these unruly roaring children; squirrel's leap over the schoolyard fence is punctuated with flying acorns and leaves and two little airborne squirrely eyebrows. The artwork tells its own separate but complementary silly story to go along with the author's words. Child (and adult!) readers will enjoy finding the humour hidden in Martchenko's sneaky details, such as spotting the boy on page 19 who is making an impudent face toward his teacher's back, or noticing his enthusiastically outdoorsy classmate on the other side of the page, who looks to be brewing up a gourmet meal on his camp stove, complete with fresh ground pepper.
Winning duo Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko have done it again: Roar! is yet another example of their skill in creating laugh-a-minute picture books that kids will want to read again and again.
Tara Williston is a children's librarian with the Burnaby Public Library. She lives in Vancouver, BC, where she thinks back on fond memories of a childhood that involved a lot of singing along to her audiobook of Robert Munsch's Mortimer. "Clang, clang, rattle-bing bang…"
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