Mom, the School Flooded!
(French: Maman, L'Ecole A Ete Inondee!)
Ken Rivard. Illustrated by Jacques Laplante.
Preschool - grade 2 / Ages 4 - 7.
Okay, Mom, I was sitting quietly in the Vice-Principal's office . . . When the goldfish started a fight. . .
GUS, THE NARRATOR of Mom, the School Flooded! lets his imagination loose when his mother asks him why he's come home from school with his shoes, socks, and pants wet.
"Weell," he begins, and then improvises a convincingly and appealingly child-like story. The invented details pile atop one another until Gus has involved a flood, the fire department, the police, and pretty much everyone at the school. (It's finally the caretaker who takes care of the flood, which has reached near-biblical proportions, with a mop.)
Gus obviously enjoys making up his story, and young readers will enjoy watching someone else test the boundaries of credibility. At the end, Rivard tells the audience to close the book if they think Gus's mother believes him; if not, Gus has another story prepared, and another after that. Finally Rivard invites readers to tell one of their own.
Jacques Laplante's illustrations are a good match for Ken Rivard's text. Done in pastel and gouache, they have a child-like, Edward Lear quality (just on the comic side of grotesque). The figures have no bones, as animators say; necks and arms loop around like pipe cleaners to fit whatever task the characters are involved in. (It's usually something that makes them sopping wet.)
The illustrations are almost all two-page spreads, with Gus himself usually showing off somewhere in the picture (it's his story; why shouldn't he be the one the TV crew interviews?). Details -- like the Vice-Principal's goldfish bowl -- recur with comic consistency. Gus's narration (almost all the text) is drawn on the page as childish printing; his mother's speech is represented by large, regular Roman characters. Although early readers might have a bit of trouble with Gus's words, the contrast in typefaces is amusing and helps characterize the speakers.
Available in either French or English.
Diane Fitzgerald is an elementary-school teacher in Saskatoon.
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