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Monday, March 2, 2015

Stop, Thief! Written by Heather Tekavec and illustrated by Pierre Pratt. Kids Can Press, 2014. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"He wasn't gone long
until he heard a strange
buzzing sound. He followed
the buzz to a small orange
carrot. On the orange carrot
there were some feathery
green leaves. On one of the
leaves was a tiny blue bug.
And the bug was chewing
the leaf!"

Max likes nothing better than to help where help is needed. So, when the farmer asks him to help catch a thief, Max is on it! The farmer explains:

"I don't know what he looks like," the farmer said, "but he's been stealing all the carrots, berries, beans and cherries. Go catch him before he eats my whole farm!"

Max is off in a New York minute, rope in mouth and the thief on his mind. It isn't long until he sees that blue bug. He knows he has managed to catch the culprit in quick time! The bug escapes and Max explains to a nearby munching bunny that the bug is the thief who's stealing food from the farmer. While the rabbit munches, he sends Max off in pursuit of the perceived thief. (Kids will be quick to admonish Max that he is missing the point!)

He sees the bug at every turn. Max can't get close enough to slow him down. A pig, and then a goat do their best to encourage Max to continue on, while munching berries and beans to their heart's content. Finally, three crows listen to Max's description of the thief and add their two cents' worth. When he assures himself that the bug is truly gone (missing another blue bug sitting on the fence), Max returns triumphantly to the farmyard. The animals prepare a party for the rural detective, leaving us with a perfect surprise ending.

 As I have mentioned before, the best picture books result from a perfect pairing of scripted and visual text. Pierre Pratt uses gouache to add another layer to this humorous and most enjoyable detective romp. His full page spreads have story going on the background as we trail Max on his search. This visually rich book shows his penchant for diagonal lines to show motion, his warm color palette and the expressive face of his main character. He also shows young readers exactly what is happening, while Max appears totally oblivious to the facts presented in the artwork.

Fun to read, and funnier to observe the actual goings-on, this is a book that should be shared ... and often!                                                                               


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