Reviews /

A Very Cranky Book

Authored by Angela Diterlizzi
Illustrated by Tony Diterlizzi
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc

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Anyone who may not know the American usage of the word ‘cranky’ will find that the cover image explains it graphically, with a cross looking book, arms folded, saying ‘Go away.’ The bad-tempered book speaks directly to the reader telling us to go and find something else to do rather than try to read it. The book has even made a list of what the reader should do: 1. WALK AWAY. 2. KEEP WALKING. 3 DON’T COME BACK. After several double pages, the book is infuriated that readers are still there, shouting ‘THERE’S NO STORY TIME TODAY’. But the other books misunderstand and gather round because they love story time and soon the cranky book is isolated outside the group while they enjoy reading together. So, again addressing the reader, the book suggests that they just read together without all these other books: ‘Just you and me.’ But that’s not going to happen, and the book is bemused when the reader decides to go away, promising that ‘next time you pick me up I’ll try to be a little more cheerful’ … although the final image suggests that this is a promise that might not be kept!

This witty, tongue in cheek, book seems to defy categorisation. It doesn’t have much of a ‘message’, except perhaps that being ‘cranky’ can be an isolating experience, but even this message isn’t laboured, as the bad-tempered book is clearly loved by the other books. Tony Diterlizzi is known for his spiky illustrations and he uses this signature style to create an image of a very cranky book indeed. The book’s comments are all designed in acid lime green speech bubbles contrasting with the play area setting in pale pastels and the other books’ bold colour covers. Apart from the ridiculous crossness of the cranky book, there is quiet humour in the characterisation of the other books, and, of course, in the silliness of the comments of the cranky book, even the back cover keeps up the crankiness. Readers from 7 upwards may enjoy the absurdity of the book’s crossness and the spiky images, so fitting for the tone of its attitude to the reader.