Illustrated by Adam Rex
HarperCollins NY, NY
I picked up this book because I’m fond of Neil Gaiman as an author. He does use an amusing word play as Chu seems to have a tendency to sneeze. Warning us, the book begins “When Chu sneezed, bad things happened.”
Generally in books like this I find a simple theme developed and repeated in variations five or six times before the climax. Often the pages then turn the story around and go backwards through those variations with repercussions. The classic example of this is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Gaiman has simplified this formula in the extreme making this a very short children’s picture book. He uses the principles of comedy one, two and the punch line on three. The story turn around is done entirely in pictures.
As it is a children’s picture book it is really the illustrations that sell the story. Adam Rex seems to use an illustration convention that is quite unique. When the story is “telling” about Chu, the panda’s day the pictures are stark and set against a white background like many science based photo picture books. When the story is “showing” Chu’s day the pages are filled with color and whimsical animal characters.
This might be a fun book for very young children suffering from colds or hay fever. I could see exploring the details in the illustration with a child while reading to them. It would be fun to ask, “what could happen if you sneezed like Chu?”
This is no great piece of literature. I would be thrilled to see it in every pediatric waiting room.