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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, written by Bob Shea and illustrated by Lane Smith. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"A hole this big means one
thing - T. rex," said the sheriff.
"Or dynamite," said the mayor.
"T. rex don't need no dynamite.
Largest predator of the Cretaceous
period," said the sheriff.
"Wow, you're good," said the

There is so much to love when Bob Shea and Lane Smith put their collective talents together. They have done it before! I can still hear the staff at Bolen's Books in Victoria calling out text from their first collaboration, Big Plans (2008). Please tell me that you have read that one as many times as it deserves to be read!!!

So, I came to this book with high hopes and ready to laugh. I was not disappointed from first page to last. You can tell from the cover there is trouble brewing, and concern over what to do about it. The sheriff wears a look of dismay as he tries to come up with a plan for the nasty and contemptible Toad Brothers.

You see, Drywater Gulch's toad problem has nothing to do with those warty amphibians you might have in mind:

"Not the hop-down-your-
britches kind of toad.

Not the croaking-all-night
kind of toad.

The never-say-thank-you
outlaw kind of toad."

There 'ain't' no trouble those Toads will avoid, and Mayor McMuffin has had it. So, he is very pleased when a new sheriff arrives in town, even though his entrance is somewhat unusual. He has none of the skills that a mayor would likely need in a lawman. But, he knows 'a really lot about dinosaurs.' How will that help, you might ask yourself. In the inventive hands of Mr. Shea, it helps enormously! The sheriff has it all figured out in no time, and irks those Toad Brothers to no end.

Put a bright and confident young sheriff in competition with a trio of numbskull outlaws and you have a recipe for one hilarious tale to be told repeatedly. Your western drawl will improve exponentially with each telling, and the laughs will just go on and on.

In a recent interview at Lane Smith talked about the process he uses in creating the amazing artwork for this book:

"For this book I did the characters in pen-and-ink and the backgrounds in oil and watercolor paint. I did them separately then scanned them into the computer to combine them in Photoshop. I don't create any textures, shapes, etc. in the computer. It's all hand done first then assembled digitally. It looks better that way."

I'll say it does. Using all of the colors of an arid desert setting, he takes us into Drywater Gulch along with the sheriff. You can almost taste the dust and dirt, and feel the heat on your skin. A host of unforgettable characters, perfect comedic timing and a story that begs to be shared make this a must-have for your classroom, your library, your family.

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