Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Big Brother

I’ve met more writers being a mama in Park Slope than I imagine Hemingway did in his Moveable Feast days in Paris. (Yeah, that’s right, I just compared myself to Hemingway – so what? You mean to say you don’t consider this blog the modern-day equivalent of For Whom the Bell Tolls?) So, back when Primo was a tot and we were kicking it in the North Slope, I had one such a neighbor; Selina Alko, accomplished illustrator of big-time picture books -- the kind of picture books on the display rack Barnes and Nobles -- like My Taxi Ride and My Subway Ride.

And now Selina’s published a new book, I’m Your Peanut Brother Big Brother, which she’s written as well as illustrated. We got our hands on a copy a few weeks ago and here’s my one-sentence sum-up:

It was so damn delectable my daughter actually tried to eat it. No shit.

The book follows the speculations of a little boy who’s eagerly anticipating the arrival of his little baby brother or sister. The boy is a blend of “semisweet dark Daddy chocolate bar” and “strawberry cream Mama’s milk” but who knows what his little sib with look like? He muses about what color skin she or he might have, what his or her nose and hair and lips might look like, using candy language to bring these possibilities to life. Reading about mocha cloud skin, cotton candy hair, and jelly bean smiles, whipped Seconda into such a froth of excitement that when she got to the page with the line “Will you be my vanilla bean ice cream sibling” she just went ahead and licked the page.

The confectionary lexicon is not only fun, it makes these musings, which we adults might make the mistake of thinking of as serious, thoroughly light-hearted and playful. Selina’s illustrations are the perfect counterpart – bright, dynamic, intricate but always accessible, they make you want to stop reading just to look more closely. The little boy wears a blue and orange striped shirt which has the wonderful effect of making him look a little like a candy cane.

Seconda had me read it over and over . . . and over again, and when Primo got a hold of it, he brought it immediately to school where his teacher asked if she could borrow it for a while. There goes our copy. I don’t think it would have lasted much longer at our place, though. With her picophagia, it was just a matter of time before Seconda tried to swallow a page.