Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins - review

What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins, pictures by Lauren Castillo.

I really like this new picture book. Well, I was hoping I was going to love this new picture book, and I guess I do, but mostly I'm super relieved it didn't turn into a "Difficult Themes" book.

Really, there's so much to love here. The cover shows the happy, hip parents escorting their, hm, 4 year old? daughter through their adorable Brooklyn neighborhood. Carroll Gardens, I'm thinking, or maybe Brooklyn Heights, although liberal arts college graduates like these parents seldom can afford Brooklyn Heights.

The art is personal and detailed, warm, rich, loving and animated, yet amiably scratchy. It feels like the scarves they're all wearing on the cover: colorful, woolly, and obviously hand-knit. I don't think anyone in all the five boroughs buys a scarf anymore, what with all the crafty neo-post-feminist knitting circles and all. You're gonna get one as a birthday present sooner or later.

My my. This review is going nowhere. Kind of like the book, although the book does it with charm. What Happens on Wednesdays is literally the dawn to dusk Wednesday routine of a Cherished Only Child in Brooklyn. There are bagels, there are dogs, there is circle time.

And yet, why, when I was reading this book to Mr. Four, was I so apprehensive? I was genuinely concerned that "what happens on Wednesdays" was going to turn out to be, like, chemotherapy. Or else something creepy and unpleasant involving the storytime lady who comes to aftercare on Wednesdays. (I take that back. Storytime ladies are never EVER perverts. They may have bad breath, or scary hairs on their faces, or a partial that keeps slipping, but evil intentions? never.)

It's not just the ominous title: there's also the kid's repeated declaration, "today is not a kissing day." Why not? What happens on kissing days? Tell me! Oh my god do we need to take you to therapy?

Difficult Themes books always seem to take me by surprise: I Remember Miss Perry started out as a totally sweet picture book about school, and halfway through Miss Perry gets hit by a bus! Aack! I thought Not in Room 204 was about classroom manners until we discovered that little Regina has been receiving nighttime visits from her daddy! Oh, no! And let's not even open The Purple Balloon (unless we absolutely need to). Can we please get a spine label here?

And maybe I am over-tuned to the pervert thing, what with people lifting pictures of kids off of Flickr and posting them on "dating" sites, or because I've been putting together an Internet Safety presentation for tweens, but still, it just hit me weird. I asked Mr. Four if he liked the book, and he shrugged and said, "Mmm, kind of."

Now, because any time I give a less than 100% love letter review I hear from the creator, I want to emphasize that I am apparently the only person who has this problem. All the biggies love this book: School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist. It's gonna go far and I wish much luck to Emily (author of the terrific Daffodil, Crocodile, among others) and Lauren. They and Jonathan Bean should get together and create their own city of vivid art and happy families.

And I am certainly going to recommend this book for rockin' Jack in DUMBO, sweet Clara in Fort Green, sly Sascha in Cobble Hill, and little Felicia up in Inwood.

Their parents, who are hip and happy and mostly not freaks like me, will adore it.