The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
What do we do when we are “stuck?” How do we untangle ourselves from a sad event, or conversely a funny one? How do we cope with things when they go so wrong they become ludicrous to the point of the ultimate absurdity? Sometimes, we lose our temper, holler, scream, kick our feet in the air while rolling all over the floor throwing a tantrum; or, we throw things. This is the beginning of Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck.
On the surface, Stuck looks like one of those chaotically illustrated books, but really one knows intuitively it was well planned and finely-tuned. It is all a ruse to keep us engaged. The simply colored pages are a series of patchwork quilts, with some seemingly random illustrated areas, some patterned layers and rows, some sparse areas of detail, but all centering on the action taking place between a young boy named Floyd and a tree. Jeffers’ text on each page is written in his own written hand, seemingly in pencil, even with mistakes to keep things looking real and in the moment. Both the illustrations and the text keep the action flowing at a faster and faster pace, just as items on each page get bigger and bigger.
The drawings are caricatures, sparse, uniquely rendered. Jeffers keeps the white of the page coming through on certain pages, while other pages have backgrounds in single colors or single colors with patterns. The soft color palette of yellows, teal greens, soft reds, oranges and blues maintain the effective ruse of a quiet but engaging rhythm to each new “toss” in the story.
But what I find most fascinating is the problem of being “stuck.” The story finds Floyd, not a very accurate pitcher by the way, throwing all sorts of things up a tree. And to what end? Is Floyd trying to free something, or is he trying to free himself from a perceived embarrassing situation? Is it frustration, or an enjoyment of creating more problems? Why and how he remains “stuck” on each page is the true catalyst of this story. We are only here as the observers to a non-sensical, particularly heart-warming journey in creativity. His creative spirit is in the patchwork quilt of his choices, his emotions, his whole world which centers around a red kite.
Oliver Jeffers creates a momentary world of chaos, through a very interesting series of mis-steps. In other words, it is our choices which dictate much of our day to day living. And in Stuck, this day for Floyd is one humdinger of a chaotic mess. Some do say that the world belongs to the unaware, not the self-aware. I think this is what we find out about Floyd in the end. And, I still say he needs to go to the park more often, not to fly kites, but to practice some throwing. He really is in need of a lot of remedial pitching fundamentals.
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers is but one of the great books on the 101 Picture Book Challenge list.
Reading Beyond The 101 Picture Book List
Just in case you're looking for more great children's books ...
Chalk by Bill Thomson
A wordless picture book about three children who go to a park on a rainy day, find some chalk, and draw pictures that come to life.
How I Learned To Fall Out of Trees by Vincent X. Kirsch
In this just released new picture book, Edward and Adelia have been best friends for many years, so when it is time for Adelia to move away she plans a special parting gift for him.
Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld
Cloudette, the littlest cloud, finds a way to do something big and important like the other clouds do.
What is the 101 Picture Book Challenge?
The 101 Picture Book Challenge is for anyone at any age. Librarians hand picked the titles on the list which includes classics, new titles and everything in between.
To get started, register online. You can track your progress online or if you prefer a paper log booklet, pick one up at your neighborhood Library. The books are organized into categories but you can read the books in any order and at your own pace. When you read all 101 titles, you earn a free picture book (while supplies last).
This is the latest in a series of blog posts exploring some of the things we love about these books.