I am in desperate need to declare book review bankruptcy. I have so many books that I am aching to share, and yet life with two little ones in a new city refuses to calm down enough for me to do much more than tread water. That’s when I need a good laugh and thankfully books like this one get me every time. Allow me to introduce you to one of my surprise-favorite books from last year. A story about a chameleon and underwear. That’s right. This book does not shy from some not-so-subtle potty humor and I guarantee you’ll love it. This was one of my grand finale books at my final storytime back in Tennessee and I can honestly say that this book just knocks your socks off with hilarity. Even the older siblings who were hanging around in the next aisle because they were “too old for storytime” eventually were sitting in the back glued to the story with a silly grin on their face. Take a humor break from whatever has you racing and relax in the pages of Brief Thief by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo, 2013.
This is the story about a chameleon named Leon who is minding his own business and living his own little life – eating, sleeping, and pooping, of course.
With his duty behind him, Leon is distraught to realize that he is out of toilet paper. Oh, the horrors. I distinctly remember that horrid feeling as a kid, being stuck on the loo ready to go play again and yet without that flimsy little paper to finish the job. Leon escapes panic when he spots an old, holey pair of underwear lying nearby. Without much thought, Leon uses it and attempts to go on his merry way.
Suddenly, Leon is stopped by a dreadful, accusatory voice. It saw what he did and thinks it is despicable.
The voice claims to be his conscience and remind Leon that just because he doesn’t think anyone is looking, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t think through his actions and be careful not to absentmindedly injure someone else. Lest you are rolling your eyes at this sudden turn of moral, let me remind you that I am summarizing. This conscience of Leon’s is much more abrasive, hilarious, and… suspicious, dare I say.
I’m going to be either particularly cruel or delightedly kind (depending on how you look at it) right now and stop telling you the rest of the story. This is a must-read and I dare not ruin it for you. Don’t worry, no chameleons are harmed in the end and I assure you Leon does right by his “conscience.” I’ve become a bit hard to crack sometimes when it comes to humorous picture books and I can honestly say this book has me laugh out loud nearly every single time. The pacing, the dialogue, the expressions, the paper, and the awesome surprise ending are such an incredibly lovely package.
I’ve mentioned before how much I appreciate the work Enchanted Lion Books is doing at bringing excellent and unique picture books to the market and this is no exception. Originally published in 2009 in France, I gladly made way for this book on my already crowded shelves and I’m happy to say that it continues to hog the spotlight with its “brief” hilarity. (Some puns are hard to avoid or resist.) The production on this one is hard to miss and a beauty to admire. While being a bit large, the paper is very thick and its glorious uncoated quality is a perfect combination to the painted/collaged/inked/crayoned effect the illustrations sport. There is something very loose and sketchy to the work and I’m amazed at its ability to give interest and joy to a story’s backdrop that textually doesn’t vary much. The story happens in the dialogue in one spot really, and yet Di Giacomo masterfully created a variety of perspective and pieces of visual interest to ground Leon’s plight. And the last two wordless pages… seriously, just go find this book already.
I don’t know much about this French author and illustrator team, but I love their work here and am excited to see there is a new creation on the horizon as well.
Forgive my somewhat “brief” review (ha!), but sometimes a quick book and a laugh is all you need in the day. Happy reading and watch out for those consciences. You never know where they’ll catch you.