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7.28.2012

The Bully Goat Grim (2012)



Written by Willy Claflin

Illustrated by James Stimson
This is the third Maynard Moose book I've reviewed, and it's the best of the lot. With each book, the world of Maynard Moose becomes more fully realized. It's really interesting to see how the look of this book contrasts with - for example - The Uglified Ducky.

There’s no formula for what a Maynard Moose tale might involve. With just three books, Willy Claflin and James Stimson have covered a variety of artistic territory.

In this outing, Maynard the Moose tells the story of a mean, vicious bully of a goat who terrorizes a poor family of bridge-dwelling trolls. But the story doesn't just rely on this reversal of archetypes for its punchline, but in the various ways in which the troll family attempts to outwit this mean beasty.

The two-headed patriarch of the troll family can't stop arguing with his other head about which tactic to take, eventually coming to blows, and knocking himself, Maynard tells us, "unconshable as a muffin." Meanwhile, the triple-headed momma troll begins discussing the situation with herselves over tea, debating and discussing  and re-thinking endless propositions until sleeps takes hold, "because the effect of too much process is soporific." But it is the single-headed baby Troll who is able to think the most clearly about the situation, leading one to presume that two heads is decidedly not better than one - much less three.

What is it that the Bully Goat says everytime he crosses the bridge?

The Troll Family
"Beware, beware, the Bully Goat Grim! Nobody better not mess with him!"

This is fairly typical vocabulary for a Maynard Moose book, but the baby troll dissects the sentence structure, realizes the presence of a double-negative in the Bully Goat's speech, and thus deduces that what the Bully Goat must actually desire is for everybody to mess with him!

This leads to a plan involving a pillow, a parachute, a case of Random Hostility Syndrome, and an extremely clever turning of the so-called tables.

There are a lot of nighttime sequences in this book, and I think James Stimson really enjoys playing with light sources and shadows, giving everything a full three-dimensional feel to it. The troll dwelling is especially marvelous, worth an extra glance after the story is over. He doesn't just illustrate the text of the story, but gives an insight into who the trolls are and how they live. The Bully Goat is genuinely fearsome, yet the two-page spread in which the animals of the forest drift "slowly down on the morning breeze, saying Good Morning to the birdies and buggies and busterflies" is filled with all the whimsy that the narrative describes.

At the end, it is Maynard the Moose who once again delivers the moral: "Learn to recognize a double negative!"

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