a list of…five completely crazy calamities!

Here are five books guaranteed to put a smile on your faces, even if it’s been One of Those Days…

The Fantastic Mr. Wani, story and illustrations by Kanako Usui

Mr. Wani is a crocodile.  A crocodile in a great big hurry!  He has been invited to a birthday party, and if he doesn’t hurry, he’ll be late!

Unfortunately, when Mr. Wani is in a hurry, nobody in his pathway is safe.  As he careens along, he crashes into quite a number of other guests along the way!  A little group of mice, a sledding party of penguins, a rotund elephant, and a large family of hedgehogs, all feel the painful results of encounters with an out-of-control Mr. Wani!  All’s well that ends well, however, and Mr. Wani and all the others do finally arrive, albeit unconventionally, at the Froggies’ house for a delightful party.

The illustrations and page lay-outs for this book are wildly wonderful.  We get several whooshing glimpses of Mr. Wani speeding along, and numerous close-up shots of crazed crashes; the hilarious, whirling, accident-ridden journey simply sweeps us along!  The text is short and straightforward and liberally sprinkled with Important Words in ginormous fonts which add to the feeling of mayhem.

My prediction: Kids ages 3 and up will say, “Read it again!” after hearing this one.  Great fun.

Oh, Were They Ever Happy!, illustrations and story by Peter Spier

When Mom remarks to Dad that she is getting perhaps a touch impatient for the house to be painted, and Mom and Dad both take off in the family station wagon for a day of errands, and the baby sitter fails to show up…well, what could be a better idea for the children than to 1) occupy themselves happily while 2) painting the house as a surprise?  Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

And that is just what these 3 kids, plus the dog and cat, do.  The garage and basement workshop are simply crammed with leftover cans of paint.  The ladders are handy.  Voila!  What could be easier?

Fire-engine red and pumpkin orange, brilliant spring green and orchid pink!  Such beautiful colors!!  These kids are so efficient, they get the entire house, shutters, doors, and even the picket fence, all painted in a glorious array of rainbow colors.  They even manage to clean up…after a fashion.

And when the parents pull in the driveway after a tiring day of shopping, won’t they be so very pleased?!

Wow.  This book is a hilarious, slopping, dripping, splattersome, mess of color and humor.  Peter Spier is a brilliant illustrator.  Many of his books are wordless or nearly wordless.  This one has only a few sentences, revealing the happy thoughts of the children while they work.  Delightful!

Fortunately, written and illustrated by Remy Charlip

One day, a boy named Ned receives an invitation in the mail to a surprise party!  Wonderful!  Ned imagines a delectable birthday cake, delicious ice cream concoctions, sticky sweets, and mysteriously wrapped packages.  An invitation to a surprise party is fortunate indeed!

Unfortunately, this party is in Florida, and Ned is in New York City.  Hmmmmm.

Fortunately, one of Ned’s friends generously loans him an airplane!!  What a guy!

Unfortunately, the motor explodes.  Sheesh!

And so it goes.  With each turn of the page, Ned’s fortunes turn from good to bad and back again.  Every bit of bad luck is whisked away by a fortuitous circumstance, and every smooth road ends up with a terrible pot-hole, until…we come to the end of the story.  And…it’s a surprise.

Simple story that will keep kids zipping through the pages to find out what happens next.  Simple pictures, with the “fortunate” ones in shockingly bright colors, and the “unfortunate” ones in grays and whites.  Great format to mimic in writing kids’ own Fortunate-Unfortunate tales.  This one is a Swanson family favorite.

Clarice Bean, Guess Who’s Babysitting? story and illustrations by Lauren Child

Clarice Bean — irrepressible, opinionated, hilarious observer and narrator of the Bean family shenanigans — here tells us about a glorious couple of days with Uncle Ted as the babysitter.

Uncle Ted is Mom’s younger brother, but not her first choice in babysitters.  He teaches Clarice cowboy techniques as the two of them lasso living room lamps and younger brothers.  He watches way too many movies.  He scrabbles up the kids in firefighter rescue holds, and is just all-around a bit too wild for Mom’s taste.  But this time, Mom has no other options.

Well.  As Clarice says, “Everything goes really well for the first two days.”  A foreboding statement!  At that point, Uncle Ted Loses Control.  And Mom’s six rules, including “No Breakages” and “Keep an Eye on Grandad as He Tends to Wander Off” all sort of…fall apart.  In a big way.  Involving many broken things, trips to the emergency room, a missing grandpa, and a missing guinea pig.

Lauren Child’s episodes with Clarice Bean always make me laugh out loud.  Outrageous, zany goings-on, yet narrated in Clarice’s dry, droll voice, and accompanied by Child’s crazy collages.  I snicker just thinking about it!

Oh, Ducky: A Chocolate Calamity, written and illustrated by David Slonim

Mr. Peters is a madcap inventor.  His assistant is a short fellow named Johnny, who definitely looks like the Keebler elves are his not-so-distant cousins.  Johnny’s best bud is a little rubber duck named…Ducky.

Mr. Peters has a chocolate factory called Yum Yum Chocolate Candies, and a razzamatazz candy truck for making deliveries.  He also has an enthusiastic Quality Control Assistant named Pauline who has the best job of all — tasting!

When Ducky tumbles into a chocolate vat, crrrraaaazzzy things begin to happen.  Things that go BLOOP and SPLOOSH!!  However, Mr. Peters’ inventive mind is not a bit overwhelmed, and out of a sticky, sloopy, messy chocolate disaster, a brilliant new idea is born.

Bold, energetic illustrations; robust, quirky characters; a snappy plot, and a jolly ending!  That’s a recipe for a yummy book!  Grab a handful of M&Ms and sit down for a double chocolate treat!  David Slonim has an awesome website, too, which you can check out here

Here are the Amazon links for this silly set of books:
The Fantastic Mr. Wani
Oh, Were They Ever Happy!
Clarice Bean, Guess Who’s Babysitting?
Oh, Ducky!: A Chocolate Calamity