School Library Journal

June 01, 2010

TAXALI, Gary. This Is Silly! illus. by author. unpaged. Scholastic. Aug. 2010. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-71836-3. LC number unavailable.
PreS-K–The story starts with a warning on the inside jacket: “This book may cause uncontrollable giggling in children.” Taxali fully embraces this caveat as readers fall down the rabbit hole with Silly Sol and are immediately lost in a surreal world of 1930s-like Saturday-morning cartoon characters and toys. A bit Alice in Wonderland, a bit Dr. Seuss, this short, rhyming story takes Silly Sol tumbling over cliffs, driving through clouds, and meeting characters such as Willy (who resembles a flying Nutter Butter), a baby Shriner, and a blue creature aptly named “Manic Monkey.” The rhyming text is not plot-driven but revels in phonemic silliness, with lots of action and playful turns of phrase. The self-proclaimed “tumbling tomfoolery” ends with a mirror, giving readers the license to develop their own silliness. The combination of vibrant illustrations with rollicking rhymes will engage young readers and art buffs alike. More than just a nod to vintage typography and animation, the book presents characters that seem familiar but by their own admission are silly beyond recognition. Taxali successfully melds a fun story with a design aesthetic rarely seen in children’s picture books.–Sarah Townsend, Norfolk Public Library, VA

Pop art and advertising-design nostalgia combine in a picture book that seems to see audience as secondary to presentation. When Silly Sol goes down a hole he finds himself in a madcap land where colorful characters traipse about. “Where Lilly romps, and Dilly stomps, / And Billy Flips and Flops.” If Manic Monkey isn’t crashing his car, then Willy, the oversized peanut, is flying up above. In the last spread the book asks, “Can you be silly too?” and includes a built-in mirror for kids to try out their best faces. The dreamlike nature of the narrative probably veers closer to an episode of H.R. Pufnstuf than an Alice in Wonderland–type story line. Though certainly fun to look at, the book appears to have been written for design majors skimming the shelves of Urban Outfitters rather than your average five-year-old child. Some kids may like the lilting rhymes and bold colors and patterns, but for the most part Taxali’s vintage designs remain better suited for his already appreciative adult market. (Picture book. 3-5)

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