February 23, 2011
Yes, once again I'm a sucker for a wordless picture book. And as usual, it's not just the sheer beauty of the art I'm enamored of—though the retro-style illustrations by its author, graphic designer Stephen Savage, are plenty appealing—but also the whimsy and the charming execution of its concept.
The title nod to Waldo notwithstanding, Where's Walrus? isn't a true visual-puzzle book, which will probably be a relief to the young toddlers that are its audience. (Nor, as far as I can tell, is it an Alan Parsons Project reference.) It's really part of the crafty-animal-escapes genre to which classics like Good Night, Gorilla and even Curious George belong. And its plot is disarmingly simple: A walrus takes a powder from the zoo, and a mustachioed zookeeper then chases him around as he blends in with a series of absurd city scenes, including a lunch counter out of a Hopper painting, a line of can-can dancers, and a row of shop-window mannequins.
It's all pretty silly—Walrus is in ridiculously plain sight on every spread—but that's precisely what will delight young readers. Our two-year-old is pleased as punch to have it both ways, triumphant that he can quickly answer the title question with every turn of the page--there he is, right there!—yet also giggling more and more with each one of those turns. I dare say parents won't be able to resist a smile now and then themselves.
[Images courtesy of Scholastic]