Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrations by Nicolas Debon
(Tundra Books, 2008)
Perhaps this book appeals to me due to my lifelong affinity for The Island of Misfit Toys from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". But that's only the beginning. Thing-Thing tells the story of what happens when a spoiled brat named Archibald Crimp (no doubt, a second cousin of Veruca Salt) unceremoniously rejects his father's latest desperate birthday gift, pitching it out a sixth floor window of the Excelsior Hotel.
That gift is Thing-Thing, a strange stuffed animal—"not quite a bunny, but not quite a dog either." The remainder of the book chronicles the rejected toy's adventure as it descends toward the busy city sidewalk below. Floor by floor, we see a variety of activities momentarily interrupted by Thing-Thing sightings. There's a distraught hockey player nursing an injury, a crazed businessman shucking a 17-battery must-have and then there's a love-struck Alex, nervously attempting to propose to the more assured Bethany.
The pages alternate from Thing-Thing's world en plein air to the simultaneous life moments inside the Excelsior. Nicolas Debon's illustrations match the text perfectly, mixing up the point of view. At times, the toy looks in; in other instances, the hotel patrons look out. Perhaps the most engaging pictures capture the fall, from aerial and side views. The book's design is also fresh, with curvy text and falling letters. One spread is a centerfold, requiring the reader to turn the book to read, as a nesting robin observes Thing-Thing's descent. As a bonus, the book jacket, when removed and reversed becomes a poster.
For the squeamish, rest assured, there is a happy ending, at least for Thing-Thing, if not Archibald.
I have read this book several times to primary and early intermediate classes and it is always a hit. Thing-Thing is instantly likable. The changing perspectives make for a lively read. While all the hotel characters attract interest, nothing catches kids' attention quite like the boy-girl scene with hearts dancing around their heads, topped by reference to a kiss. "EWWWW!" Yes, they love it.
And so do I. Not just one page, but the whole darned thing. For me, Thing-Thing is just the thing!