A quest for knowledge through the lens of picture books. Focusing on the mythological, the spiritual and the socially progressive in stories and storytelling.
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This is a Maynard Moose book, so of course it begins with a
warning: "This book contains Moose grammar, spelling and usage, all of
which has been known to scrumble up the human brain."
This is the fourth
Marynard Moose book - a trilogy no longer - and the fourth I've reviewed, and again the boundaries of
the tale get pushed further back, this time as far as the outer reaches of
space, where Mother Moose makes her home amongst the constellations and things get a trifle on the metaphysical side.
There's a creation story at play, which sets the tone of what is to come: "The whole universe come from the kitchen of Mother Moose," says Maynard, hovering over the non-sleeping form of Little Moose, his favorite cousin. "Is one thing to make a universe out of Thick air. But to make a universe out of Thin air, you got to stir and stir and stir."
In the world of Maynard the Moose and Willy Claflin's imagination, counting sheep is not just an excercise in self-induced monotony, but the ticket to an adventure, as the insomniac-laden Little Moose is transported out the window and through space, "up and up into the dark night sky, where the warm winds blow and the stars all sporkle and blink," and then from there to the house of Mother Moose, floating above the cosmos and filled with a wood burning stove and all the accoutrements of coziness, the place where the stories come from.
I like the unpredictable quality of the Maynard Moose books, and I feel that with each book the narrative gets more and more loosened up, freer to go in any direction Maynard feels like taking it. Most of the book is taken up with a more conventional back-and-forth between Little Moose and her parents and teachers, then suddenly, apropos of nearly nothing, off we fly on the back of a sheep wearing a football helmet!
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
What is it that the Bully Goat says everytime he crosses the
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!"
Maynard Moose again, telling his Mother Moose tales about the campfire, surrounded by all of his wildlife buddies, leaning in close for another good story. In Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs, I noted one of the big jokes at the end was that Maynard was not certain what the moral of the story was. In this one, not only does he know the moral, but he even leads off with it:
Do you ever feel like maybe you have been borned into the wrong fambly? Like maybe you feel like you are a little porcupine being raised by a fambly of kangaroos... Or maybe you feel like you are a little bunny rabbit being raised by a fambly of rhinoceroses... Well, this is the story of a poor moose who was raised by duckies.
The uglified duckling is not a duckling at all, but a young moose who inadvertently wanders into a nest of duck eggs just as they are about to hatch, to the incredulity of the returning mother. "Boy, that's the most uglified ducky I never see!" she exclaims.
The uglified duckling attempts to quack.
It might be nice if she loved the young moose regardless, but that is not the case. She has a job to do, and that's to teach these baby ducklings to survive in the world. She doesn't have time to spend on this grotesque duckling covered in brown fur who can't even master a little waddling. "This is waddle practice! This is not practice for trip and stumble!" she tells him.
Most of the story is comprised of these lessons, and the moose's inability to keep up. He can't waddle, he can't quack, he can't swim, and - most depressingly of all - he can't fly. He can only stare all forlorn as his adopted brothers and sisters fly off, leaving him "all d'abandoned and left alone."
It is only at the end, after he has wandered alone through the wilderness, that he comes upon a family of actual moose, and realizes his true nature. "And he is bounding joyfully through the forest ever still, happy to be the moose that he would be!"
The book is beautifully illustrated by James Stimson, and includes a glossary of "Moose words and their English equivalents." My favorite is "Quadrapedagogy: the state or condition of having four feet."
Not just a fairy-tale mashup, but also a story-within-a-story. We begin in the Northern Piney Woods, and are told that every full moon, all of the animals come out to hear the 'old Mother Moose Tales,' as related by Maynard Moose. James Stimson depicts the scene with much lushness, the flames of the small campfire glowing against Maynard's antlers, the full moon shining down from above, I could have spent the whole story out in these environs. Yet soon enough, we venture into the world of the tale.
Her hair was so long that it drag out from behind of her along the ground. It get dragged through mud puddles, and kids run over it on their bicycles, and it becomes distremely filthified - all full of sticks and twigs and little nastified wudgies of glop.
The whole story is told in this strange vernacular, what we are told it was translated from the original Moose. Certain words are listed in the glossary, should the context prove unclear. Filthified means, "repulsively and disgustingly unclean." Glop is, "mysterious, disgusting, foul-smelling sticky stuff."
In this story, she is locked away in a tower by a wicked witch, and when the handsome prince attempts to mount Punzel's golden hair - being a bit chubbified - he instead yanks her from the tower and sends her flying into the forest, where she meets the eight or nine seven drawfs: Clumsy, Snoozy, Cheerful, Fearful, Hyper, Hungry, Grizelda, Ambidextrous and sometimes Bewildered.
Once in the care of the eight or nine Dwarfs, her head is
shaved clean as a bowling ball in order than she may best untangle herself form
the clutches of the wooded branglebush, which also doubles as a keen way to
disguise her identity (in my opinion), but more plot-pertinent, allows for some
cranial nueromancy on the part of the dwarfs, who crowd around the shorn noggin
Mirror, mirror on Punzel’s head
Is the witch alive or dead?
Clumsy, Snoozy, Cheerful, Fearful, Hyper, Hungry, Grizelda, Ambidextrous and sometimes Bewildered.
From here, the story fairly gives way to Snow
White, albeit with Rhinocerous costumes and poisoned watermelons and the
creation of the Sleeping Punzel Museum and amusement park to house her camotose
self. Only 75 cents to see her! And is it the handsome yet chubbified prince who will thus awaken
her with a single kiss and prance on off into the sunset? Is it?!
Nope. It is a moose, of course.
And the moral of that
story is, if you have long, long goldie hairs that drag out from behind of you
along the ground, then you should always... um… The moral of the story is…
there ain’t no moral to some stories at all!