Dear Oliver Jeffers,
Your books are quite simplistic. And sometimes strange. And always fun to look at. For that, I love you. You first won the hearts of my children when one of them found the book The Incredible Book Eating Boy. They were horrified that the child who’d checked the book out previously from the library had taken a bite out of it and then had the audacity to return the book– unpaid!
Still, though the book was a fun little diversion, we didn’t bother noticing the author’s name on the cover. Your artwork wasn’t the classically beautiful Robert McCloskey or Jan Brett type after all. It takes a quirky heart to appreciate both the figures and the humor you play with. It wasn’t until we chanced across the video of you reading Stuck, that we finally woke up, recovered from our giggles and went searching for more of your titles (having a soft spot for author/illustrators, see). And then, we feasted. The kids enjoyed The New Sweater, likening it to Max Lucado’s If Only I Had a Green Nose in chronicling the perils of peer pressure. I especially loved the page of the Huey who had the word “Want” written above him when he first saw the sweater. After this, we delved into the adventures of the Boy and agreed that we liked him best in How to Catch a Star.
But the manner in which you really won my heart Mr. Jeffers, came about quite unexpectedly and in an improbable title. It happened in the book This Moose Belongs to Me. The book itself is absurd of course and makes no sense and I was about to miss the whimsy train when all of a sudden, I read it. What may be the very best line ever written in children’s books since the ridiculous “Goodnight Nobody” line from Goodnight Moon. You wrote:
But in his haste, and miles from anywhere, he tripped over his string and got tangled up. And there he lay. Wilfred was beginning to get a little bit worried. It was getting late and the monsters would be out soon. He had just ruled out the last of his options… when along came the moose…
Just like that. In passing. In an extraordinary sense of the perfect understanding that monsters are a real phenomenon (as any child knows of course) and could be brought up casually in a story that had nothing whatsoever to do with monsters. For that, and for this super excellent video on how you make your books, I will forever count you among my favorites.