What if Joe doesn t like the party he s going to? What if he doesn t like the food or the games or the people? As Joe and his mom walk down the darkening street, Joe s imagination starts to run wild. Read more...
What if Joe doesn t like the party he s going to? What if he doesn t like the food or the games or the people? As Joe and his mom walk down the darkening street, Joe s imagination starts to run wild. And as they search for the right place, he wonders "what if . . ." at each house, peeking in to see some surprising sights. From the award-winning former British Children s Laureate Anthony Browne comes a picture book whose slyly bewitching setup unfolds to a reassuring ending."
- ISBN-13: 9780763674199
- ISBN-10: 0763674192
- Publisher: Candlewick Press (MA)
- Publish Date: August 2014
- Page Count: 32
- Reading Level: Ages 5-8
- Dimensions: 11.8 x 9.7 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.15 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-05-12
- Reviewer: Staff
A nervous boy named Joe is on his way to a birthday party, but he has lost his invitation and doesn’t know the house number. Panels in blue wash show Joe’s mother reassuring him as they walk down the street, considering each house. “What if there’s someone at the party I don’t know?” Joe asks. “You’ll be fine,” she says. The magic is in the dreamlike scenes that appear in each successive house’s window—are they real, or Joe’s anxieties made manifest? The first reveals an elderly couple sitting, somnolent, in their front room; a closer look suggests they might be aliens. An enormous elephant looms in the next window. Further along, schoolboys reminiscent of Tweedledee and Tweedledum shove a companion into a teapot. “What if they play scary games?” Joe asks. A roomful of Brueghel characters heaves and churns. Yet the love between Joe and his mother always keeps his fears from overtaking him, and when Joe finds the party at last, it’s his mother who has a moment of anxiety. Beautifully and subtly executed, with Brown’s extraordinary illustrative powers at work throughout. Ages 5–8. (Aug.)
Childhood anxieties run wild
BookPage Children's Top Pick, August 2014
There are lots of picture books about children who worry, ones that try in various ways to reassure children that everything, in the end, will be OK. But I can promise you that you haven’t seen one quite like Anthony Browne’s What If . . . ?
In a story that manages to be offbeat, cryptic and comforting all at once, a young boy named Joe heads to his first big birthday party. He’s apprehensive, and to make matters worse, he’s lost the invitation and the birthday boy’s house number. One has to wonder if he intentionally misplaced them, but either way, his mother convinces him that they’ll be able to find the house and that it will be great for him to meet new children. They take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, and at each house, his mother stops to ask, “Do you think that’s Tom’s house?” No, says the boy, as we readers stare along with mother and son at the bizarre, dreamlike goings-on through a window of each home. In one, it appears an elderly man and woman sit and read, but look closely, and you’ll see a floating teacup next to the man and small, bizarre alien protrusions on the man’s head, as well as the dog’s. In the next house, a giant elephant stares from the window, and in another, one very madcap, Carroll-esque tea party takes place. It’s as if the titular “what if” question serves two purposes: to reassure the boy (things could always be worse, or at least weirder), as well as to prompt his imagination, thereby calming his anxieties on the way to the shindig.
In an all-too-real twist, once the boy arrives at the party, it’s his mother who worries about his well-being as she heads home, but all’s well that ends well. When she picks him up, he’s had a blast.
Surreal and delightfully droll, this one’s a rare bird.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.