Monday, November 21, 2011


“Not drawn by” Pam Smallcomb

“Not written by” Robert Weinstock

(Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011)

This book is about opposites attracting. Mars, venus. Cats, dogs. Oscar, Felix.

As delightfully drawn as the two main characters are, I cannot tell what they are—just what they’re...not. Not humans. Not talking dogs. Not sponge creatures. I call them blobbies even though I am sure they are supposed to be some sort of animal. (My best guess would be dinosaurs or an alligator and a hippo. It really doesn’t matter.) One is green, the other brown. Again, I simply refer to them as Greenie and Brownie. Greenie is actually named Evelyn. Brownie is the first-person/blobby narrator.

Evelyn is the friend most of us wanted to have when we were young(er). She’s daring, artsy, imaginative and inappropriate. Brownie claims she herself is none of that. There is a clear pattern in the text: “Evelyn is up on all the latest fashion trends. I’m not.” The illustrations provide the amusement. In this example, Evelyn dresses herself in lampshades (“Lampshades are the new black!”), bandages (“Band-aids with me!”) and sweatbands. By contrast, Brownie dons a paper bag.

Evelyn is indeed a handful, perhaps too much for us adults who have learned to fit in, to follow rules and expectations. In truth, it is the Evelyns, Olivias and Davids of youth that attracted me to moving down from high school to elementary. Evelyn is sparkly minded, unpredictable and eminently entertaining.

Principal Milton, a stern-faced walrus represents spirit-sucking elements of society. Seems he objects to Evelyn’s bubble gum statue of him. Robert Weinstock adds humorous touches to the principal’s office, with framed pictures of a lemon and a soon-to-erupt volcano mounted on the wall. Ah, yes. Principals represent all that is sour. They keep the peace based on a fear of a possible explosion. Thanks for that, Mr. Weinstock!
This picture book represents a perfect merger of text and illustrations, each aspect making the other stronger. I am not sure to what extent author Pam Smallcomb had input as to the comic speech bubbles and drawings, but I assume that the editor was instrumental in ensuring that the words and pictures complement one another so seamlessly. This is a team I hope continues to work together.

A highlight for me is the two-page spread of Evelyn visiting Brownie’s house. Brownie informs us that “she changes my room.” And how! Paintbrush in hand (claw?), Evelyn states, “Your ceiling will look dreamy in orange!” My favorite page features Evelyn hanging upside down from the branch of an apple tree with the text, “She’s not one single bit ordinary.” It’s what Evelyn says in the comic bubble that gets me every time: “Look...I’m an apple!”

Like Brownie, I’m not Evelyn either. But there is a little bit of that wacky daringness locked in my mind. All of us can appreciate least as a creature of fiction. I’m Not is a must read...unless you’re too much of a fuddy-duddy. Thankfully, I’m not!

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