By Arthur Geisert
Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books; $16.00
32 pp.; ISBN: 0618609040
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Spilled milk is a relatively regular occurrence at my house -- we clean off the table, mop it up off the floor, refill the cup, and move on. It's become so routine, there's very little drama involved anymore. But in Oops, an outrageous wordless picture book by Arthur Geisert, a little spilled milk sets off a wild chain of events that will keep surprising young readers every time you turn the page.
A family of pigs sits down to breakfast one morning in their cozy cottage that's perched on stilts on the side of a hill. One of the children spills his milk, which drips through a seam in the tabletop and runs onto the floor, then through a grate in the floor into a gutter of sorts. In the gutter, it runs downhill, falling onto a paint pan, knocking it off a chest of drawers in a work area under the house, and in the process dislodging a screwdriver that flips on a grinder that catches a clothesline and then… the calamity continues to escalate dramatically until the house falls down the mountain from its precarious position and a large boulder comes bounding down the hill right after it and lands in the kitchen, smashing the house to smithereens. All because of a little spilled milk.
Not to fear though, Geisert doesn't leave young readers (or their parents) to worry about the porcine family for long; he does illustrate the family all together, safe and sound at the end (albeit with the remains of the house strewn about).
Geisert's attention to detail is amazing -- since there are no words in this story, the pictures must go above and beyond; there is no room for ambiguity nor any chance for misinterpretation allowed. Delicately inked and subtly colored artwork is quite inviting; it encourages young readers to look closely at the pictures, and it holds their interest throughout the book. The sequential art is easy to follow, although having no words, there is a bit of pressure on the reader of the book to supply a good telling that will satisfy very young listeners. Children who are just about ready to read by themselves can also enjoy Oops on their own; having no words, the book is accessible to pre-readers as well, who can make up their own details if they like.
The nice thing about Oops is that it provides numerous opportunities for discussion between parents and kids. Without a set narrative, there's a lot of flexibility in that readers can peruse whatever part of the book most captures their interest, whether it's cause and effect, the mechanics of how the house is kept up on the stilts, why the tree falls down after the water pipe breaks and washes away the dirt, and more.
Curious and quirky, Oops has got humor, drama, and action that will appeal to boys and girls alike, avid readers and even reluctant readers. Geisert's previous books include Lights Out, Pigaroons, Mystery, and The Giant Ball of String.
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