Saturday, May 22, 2010
Me and You, written and illustrated by Anthony Browne. Random House, 2009. $24.95 ages 6 and up
"One morning Mummy made porridge for breakfast, but it was too hot to eat.
'Let's all go for a gentle stroll in the park while it cools down,' said Daddy.
So we did."
The dedication reads: "for all the underdogs".
A look at the title page shows two blocked illustrations; one is a small bear, dressed in jeans and sneakers with his head up and eyes closed to the warmth of the sun, and the other is a young child in drab pants and black hoodie, walking past a wrought-iron fence on a colorless day. The reader is immediately drawn to the differences in setting and mood.
As the story begins we meet a mother bear cleaning the windows of a bright yellow house while the father scans the neighborhood from a third floor window. Turn the page and four sharply drawn scenes show a mother and child leaving their house, heading along the street and gazing at the front window of a nearby butcher shop. They do not go in.
Ah, the bear family...Daddy, Mummy and the narrator, their young cub.
Once again, facing pages show the distinct differences between the young bespectacled blond girl and the laughing, lively bear cub and his family. She is chasing an errant balloon and distraught when she cannot capture it. The sepia tones for this series of actions impart a sad and lonely feel. The bears sit in sunshine at a table laden with breakfast porridge, which is too hot to eat.
Does it sound familiar? It should.
With each turn of the page, we come face to face with two stories. Goldilocks passes rundown, brick, colorless buildings on her journey through the neighborhood where she lives. As she passes the bright yellow house she notices that the front door is open, and accepts that as her invitation to enter. The bears stroll and enjoy the sunshine and conversation while Goldilocks goes about sating her appetite and testing the variety of chairs. As the bears return home, they note the open door and enter. You know what happens next.
Goldilocks is found in the young bear's bed and makes her escape back home in pouring rain while passing brick walls topped with barbed wire and buildings defaced with graffiti. We are left, with our narrator to wonder what happened to her.
Lucky we are to follow her toward the warmth of home and a mother's tight hug!
This is such a thought-provoking telling of a traditional fairy tale. Anthony Browne is a master artist who shares much while telling little more than the story we all know and love. So much comes to readers through his artwork. His use of color, space and detail is impressive and poignant. Even the endpaper colors are chosen with care and a message about mood. Wonderful!