Jim Aylesworth’s story and Stephem Gammels illustrations make Old Black Fly one of the better themed abecedarian books I’ve seen. It’s a straightforward story: Old Black Fly has been having a very busy day being bad; he does all sorts of badness; then, justice comes, he gets swatted, and “he won’t be bad no more.” Written in a song-like, rhythmic kind of way, complete with rhyme and the oft repeated “Shoo fly, shoo fly, shoo”, it begs to be read aloud in that slow way of an old man sitting on a hot porch, listlessly waving his hand at a fly buzzing round his head. The tone makes the SWAT! at the end particularly effective. But then, it’s right back to the slow tone that eclipses the messy undoing of an evil, dirty fly.
Ann Schweninger’s A Dance for Three (title “story” shown above) is a collection of 3 wordless tales. Key word: simple. And you could throw fanciful in there. But not straightforward. Definitely not straightforward.
If academics had a hard time with the naked Mickey yelling Cock-a-doodle-doo in In the Night Kitchen, what would they say to a kid’s book where all the adults get into the bathtub together? What exactly would they conclude from a big, hairy, naked king jovially commanding all of his subjects to conduct their business with him–fishing, eating lunch, having masquerade balls, planning battles– in the bubbly waters of his bath?
To add to the list of personal favorites: Julian Scheer and Marvin Blick’s Rain Makes Applesauce. Simply put: without any direction, tangible plot, or identifiable characters, Rain Makes Applesauce explodes in a carnivalesque orgy of nonsense, hordes of patched dolls, giant clouds of collaged landscapes, and fragmented colorful lines splaying all about.