By Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic)
In stores January 28, 2014
There’s a rhyme battle going on in children’s literature. It’s a battle between fans of non-rhyming Sendak and MC Seuss. You can like both, of course, but most people tend to side with one or the other (it’s like the Beatles vs. Elvis question posed by Uma Thurman’s character in Pulp Fiction). I think your choice has a lot to do with how you feel about rhyme. Seussians say bring it on, while Sendakians sometimes feel that it’s unnecessary, or, at worst, a crutch. Then you come across a book like Superworm, the latest from the dynamic duo of Julia Donalson and Axel Scheffler (responsible for the loved in the U.S. and fairly worshipped in the U.K. The Gruffalo), and you see how rhyme can take a wonderfully wacky tale and add another layer of charm.
Superworm can do just about anything, including saving lives. Little frog jump in the road? Superworm lasso will yank her out of trouble. Beetle in the well? Superworm will reel him in. When the evil Wizard Lizard learns about our hero’s talents, he captures him, forcing Superworm to search for buried treasure. But the clock is ticking – if Superworm fails, Wizard Lizard’s henchbird Crow will turn him into dinner. The amphibians, snails, and bugs of the forest hatch a plan to rescue their friend.
I’d say Donaldson has a firm grasp of this rhyming thing. There’s rhyme that simply works, and then there’s rhyme that propels the story forward with its catchy rhythm and subtle wit. Superworm is a fine example of the latter. You’ll want to read this to a crowd.
Life and death – nothing grabs the attention better. When Superworm is in danger of getting gobbled up by the crow, young readers will be locked in, hanging on every turn of the page.
The illustrations given a bit of a cartoon feel through the use of large eyes and vivid colors. It’s the sort of book where everyone is smiling. I think readers will follow suit.
I’m not a big fan of the term likable, so how about we just stick with this one: delightful. That’s what it is. Make sure you have it on hand.
Review copy from the publisher.