Written by Bob Shea; illustrated by Lane Smith
Hyperion Books for Children; $17.99
48 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-1423111009
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
With bravado and charisma, one young boy’s got big plans for all of us and he’s figured out a way to let the rest of us know just that. In Bob Shea’s Big Plans, the book opens with the little boy sitting in the corner at school. From Lane Smith’s illustrations, it’s clear that our little friend is in big trouble. The (literal) writing on the wall, the chalkboard, spells it out: "I will not roll my eyes. I will not scheme in class," and so on and so on.
But this boy’s got plans, he tells us. From climbing a mountain to commanding the board room, saving the big game to getting named mayor, finding a quarter (and a Stinky Lucky Hat!) to getting to be president and then go to the moon, it’s all part of his plan. Our boy never lets us know exactly what his big plans are, but it doesn’t matter. He’s got ’em, and he’s gonna let us all know about it. No time-out’s going to stop him.
Bob Shea’s energetic writing, peppered with adult-like demands to big shots, bigwigs, and muckety-mucks, asking if someone’s a naysayer, and demanding that Americans should "mill about" parallels big talking with the boy’s big plans. Shea’s kid’s eye view of what businessmen, sports figures, politicians, and astronauts is tongue-in-cheek to be sure, but also a bit eye-opening in that this is how kids can see adults– commanding, demanding, and domineering. And getting their way.
Lane Smith’s artwork humorously plays out every sight gag. For example, when the boy tells Missouri to cheer up, that the state is bringing him down, Smith’s got a small frowning child standing under the famed arch. The spelling out of every infraction on the classroom chalkboard right next to the time-out corner tells us all we need to know about how this kid probably got into trouble, primarily by being bossy. Lane also gives us all the building blocks for the rest of the story on page one: there’s a bird poster (the boy’s sidekick is a mynah bird, one of those known for imitation), a book of presidents, a post of the moon, and more. His expressive illustrations strongly convey the meaning and intent behind the boy’s words.
In the same vein as Judith Viorst’s classic picture book When I’m Six, I’ll Fix Anthony, this book about payback is satisfying, fun, and even a little silly; kids should really enjoy living vicariously through the main character.