Thursday, July 7, 2011

Children's Book Review: Harry And The Terrible Whatzit

Name of Book: Harry And The Terrible Whatzit
Author / Illustrator: By Dick Gackenbach
What It's All About: Harry tells his mother not to go down to the basement.  He knows there is something bad down there.  His mother doesn't listen and now she's missing.  Down in the basement Harry finds the Whatzit.  He discovers the Whatzit monster doesn't like people who stand up to it.  When you stand up to a Whatzit, it shrinks! Harry isn't so unkind as not to give the monster a hint where to go next (to a neighbor's house who's afraid of everything).  The only thing left for Harry to do is find his mother.  But where is she? Perhaps he should leave the cellar through it's back door to the back yard.

My Favorite Bit: I think I like that Harry sends the Whatzit to his neighbor's house best.  I also like the little details like Harry's mother leaving her glasses by the jars of pickles.  The illustrations in this story remind me of Tootise Roll pops for some reason.  It's a very seventies-looking story but it doesn't suffer for it.  The simple colors and great illustrations make this story a perfect one for your library.
Go Get It: Harry And The Terrible Whatzit
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This story can be a little spooky as there is not only something in the basement but it's a pretty creepy monster.  I'd save this for five and up based on the pictures (but I don't know your kids so you check it out :).
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Mr. Gackenbach (1927-2001) was born in Allentown, Pennsylvannia and attended Jameson Franklin School of Art in New York as well as Abbott School of Art in D.C.  He worked for J.C. Penney from 1950-1972 as a paste-up artist* then creative director.  After that he became a free-lance author and illustrator in 1972 until his death.  He was also a consultant on art education for children with learning disabilities from 1988-2001.

* A paste-up artist (also called a layout, mechanical, production, or compositer artist) would cut the type into sections and arrange it carefully across multiple columns.  Basically, the paste-up artist would usually determine the final position of words on a page (back in the land before computers were alive).

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