The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Image
Big Picture Image
Kevin O'Malley, 1997.
See permission.
The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books

The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

Velcome; written and illus. by Kevin O'Malley. Walker, 1997 32p
Library ed. ISBN 0-8027-8629-4$16.85  
Trade ed. ISBN 0-8027-8628-6$15.95

Sometimes even the Bulletin staff regresses to fourth-grade humor, and often it has to do with a book we're reviewing. If you are seeking a crowd-pleaser, a reluctant-reader pleaser, or an easy chuckle accompanied by moans of recognition, welcome to a grownup's nightmare and a grade-schooler's dream come true.

Everything old is new again as O'Malley retells a variety of old chestnuts in this campy spoof of urban legends, old horror movies, and really bad jokes. The stories aren't new--in fact, they are cliché-ridden groaners with protagonists that adult readers will easily recognize, including a boy being chased by "The Coffin," which is ultimately stopped by a cough drop; a lone girl terrorized by "The Viper," who has come "to vash and vipe" the windows; and a youngster seeking the source of a strange rapping sound who discovers (are you ready?) a roll of brown wrapping paper. Accompanying these refurbished, revamped, and refreshed schoolyard favorites are some truly corny jokes, both written and visual. The host--dressed in a smoking jacket, seated in a red chair in front of a roaring televised fireplace, and looking a bit like a mad, moustachioed Peter Lorre--welcomes readers to a night of his favorite scary stories. He then proceeds to narrate from some oddly titled tomes, intruding willy-nilly on the tales and addressing his comments directly to the reader.

O'Malley's text is so terribly cornball it's actually funny, and his visuals support the outrageously over the top, self-aware humor. A disdainful-looking bloodhound holds up signs with such comments as "Listen to me. You should stop reading . . . now! " and "I guess it's no use telling you not to turn the page, HUH?" as the narrator mugs his way through his comedic commentary and the stories themselves careen to their appropriately ridiculous conclusions. O'Malley's multimedia (colored pencil, oil paint, and watercolor) illustrations are nearly all large enough for group viewing; they combine with his text in a perfect meld of buffoonery and cartooning, with dialogue balloons and a carefully designed typeface that uses upper-case letters and a variety of fonts to emphasize the textual absurdities. The atmospherics are enhanced by the bit players (spiders, mice, a black cat) and all the accoutrements of B-grade horror: sputtering candles, cobwebs, and a nattering skull that would put Yorick to shame . Grade-school readers are going to whoop with laughter while too-sophisticated adults try to stifle their unwilling guffaws when perusing this bound-to-be-a-favorite title.

What makes this book such a guilty pleasure for mature readers? Well, for one thing, this title is such a relief. It has no message, it has no morally redeeming social value, and it has no mission--except to make the reader laugh, and out loud at that . What this book does have is a sense of humor, kid's humor, something that is often not taken seriously (enough) in mainstream books for youth. There will be a definite difference in how this title is viewed by children and adults: the kids are going to love it because it gives recognizable, hilarious shape and form to the silliness they already use to keep the really scary stuff at bay; the grown-ups, after they get through smacking their foreheads, will start chuckling because O'Malley is light-heartedly and deliberately absurd. The whole package--the text, illustrations, and design--conjures up an image of the author/illustrator crouched over his drawing table chuckling with maniacal glee. (Sort of the way the Bulletin reviewers crouched over this book, emitting little snorts of guilty laughter.)

The jokes start and end on the endpapers, so make sure you don't miss them. This is one silly spooky spoof that is sure to become close to every middle-grader's pun-loving little heart.

Janice Del Negro, Editor

Big Picture Image
November's Bulletin cover illustration
by Kevin O'Malley from
Velcome,
Copyright 1997. Used by
permission of Walker
and Company.



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