by Roslyn Schwartz
Owlkids Books 3/15/2014
Age 3 to 7 32 pages
“The Vole Brothers are back! Flap . . . Flap . . . SPLAT! The Vole Brothers set out for a stroll . . . only to discover the path, and the skies, are not as clear as they expect. How will the bickering yet lovable rodents cope with the ensuing mess? Find out in this hilarious tale of mishap and one-upmanship that starts with a flying pigeon . . . and ends with a splat!”
“Tum ti tum ti tum . . . Flap . . . Flap . . . Flap.”
The Vole Brothers . . . what can I say about these two little guys, out on stroll, minding their own business, when all of a sudden . . . out of the sky so blue . . . comes a gray mass heading right toward them and . . . it drops a load of, uh . . . on one brother’s head. How rude is that? But, you cannot trust one brother to always stand up for the other brother and the Vole Brothers are no exception to this bad brotherly rule.
So what happens next? Really, do you really want to know? If you have a sibling close in age or, you poor thing, a twin, you know what happens next. The unharmed Vole Brother laughs at the one who did . . ., and he laughs . . ., and laughs. The slighted Vole Brother, understandably, unhappy with his brother’s reaction and decides to help him understand the situation.
If you have a sibling, you guessed correctly, he takes the “yuck” from his head and places it on his brother’s head, without violence or anger. Then an odd thing happens. Rather than his brother understanding the situation, he laughs . . ., laughs . . ., and laughs. His brother does understand more clearly and throws the white glop back, but his brother ducks. Standing on the road is the mean-spirited pigeon and he is surprised. Now both Vole Brothers laugh together, a happy, justified laugh. Great story, huh?
Well, Splat has a couple more scenes. The pigeon flies away, but is angry. Soon, an army of vengeful gray birds is on the way. The Cheerful Vole Brothers turned their heads to watch the first bird fly away. They did not see the banana peel. Had they paid attention to where they were going [LESSON], what happened next might not have happened.
Splat will cause belly laughs and giggle-groans. Young children and boys are a great audience for Splat! They tend to like this kind of humor, but some girls will enjoy it, too. I loved it, and laughed until it hurt. The expressions on the Vole Brothers’ faces throughout the entire story are priceless, as is the pigeon’s expression when hit in the head with his own excrement. The story, told with few words and no sentences, is an example of an artist who knows her audience and can engage them with her artistic skills. As an example: The gray bird attacks:
[The pigeon fires upon Vole1.]
“Tee hee hee” “Ha ha ha” “Ho ho ho” [said Vole2]
[Vole1 slops Vole2’s head.]
The scenes are perfect. No extra text needed. Kids will understand exactly what is happening and exactly how the author wants them to react. What does Splat teach kids? We already know it reminds kids to look where they are walking. Kids will also learn compassion; to put themselves in another’s shoes. Splat is also bully story. The pigeon is certainly a bully. The Vole Brothers did nothing to provoke it. Kids learn to stand up to a bully (even though it was accidental, it counts). Kids learn how to outsmart a gang of bullies using their imagination.
Splat is a confidence builder. Schwartz shows those kids who feel they cannot write another way to tell a story. The illustrations are terrific. The Vole Brothers are 95% expression, which the author/artist expertly shows on the brothers’ faces and physical movements—and on the pigeon. . The illustrations are as sparse as the words, yet this minimalistic style serves the story perfectly. Not once do the brothers lose their cheerfulness. I love the story and the illustrations.
Finally, kids will love Splat for its humor, for the story of two siblings sticking together against a threat, and for the reaction parents will have when asked to read this over and over and over again. Teachers will love Splat because it teaches kids to respect and have compassion for others and to stand up to bullies. Parents will love Splat . . . uh, parents will love Splat . . . secretly, alone at night, when the kids are asleep. Splat contains no violence and is actually a sweet story. I enjoyed it immensely and kids will, too.
SPLAT!: STARRING THE VOLE BROTHERS. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Roslyn Schwartz. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books, Berkeley CA.
Learn more about Splat!: starring the Vole Brothers HERE.
Meet the author / illustrator Roslyn Schwartz, at the CCBC: http://www.bookcentre.ca/directory/roslyn_schwartz
Also by Roslyn Schwartz
copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews