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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, written by Michael Chabon and illustrated by Jake Parker. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2011. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"So I fly back to the Fortress of Awesome, deep at the bottom of the deepest, darkest trench under the Arctic Ocean. It's peaceful here. Quiet and calm. I can just lie on the bed and chill for a while. I need to get a grip."

This is Michael Chabon's first picture book, and I would hope it won't be his last. He explained in a recent interview why he chose the language that he did to tell his tale of Awesome Man:

"The words need to have some juice to them, some snap. Children are fascinated by wordplay. If a children's book is any good, the language has verve."

Right you are, Michael. He says he wrote the book specifically for his youngest son, Abe. He wrote it when Abe was five, and based it on some of the issues that his son was dealing with at the time, especially the limits of his strength. He obviously has a listening ear. He has captured the language that a five-year-old will love, but this book will become a favorite for many others as well:

"I can shoot positronic rays out of my eyeballs. And can I tell you something? Giant killer robots just hate that stuff."

There is a lot of invented language here, and I can imagine it becoming part of the talk between fans who have heard the story as many times as they ask for it. They will be numerous! The sound effects will resound as kids eagerly try to channel Awesome Man and his powers. The red cape and black mask add to his mystery. Just as he is about to reveal his secret identity, 'Professor Von Evil in his Antimatter Slimebot' arrives on the scene! A quick change and Professor Von Evil misses him completely. Do you think you can  guess who he is?

Professor Von Evil is not the only threat to Awesome Man and his Awesome Dog Moskowitz. There is also The Flaming Eyeball! The Eyeball is a quick escape artist, and it infuriates Awesome Man....

"See, the thing is, I'm superstrong. I have to be careful. I can't start hitting stuff or kicking stuff or throwing stuff around, even though that's what I want to do so badly. I might hurt somebody, or destroy a city or something."

I guarantee you will love the surprise ending, and enjoy the perfection of it!

If you know The Incredibles, you will recognize Jake Parker's artwork. It is bold and bright, but with a soft edge that is perfect match to the children who are going to love this book. Double page spreads, occasional panels and spot pictures keep the action front and center and promise to keep listeners entertained whenever this book is shared.

And he wrote it with the best intentions in mind. He loves reading bedtime stories to his kids:

"Reading a story creates this bubble around you. It shelters you, protects you, keeps out distractions. The main thing has to be the physical contact between parent and child." Awesome Man is just the guy to create that bubble of  'reading magic'.

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