Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell

In Lester's Dreadful Sweaters, a child endures the embarrassment of wearing to school one dreadful handmade garment after another. K.G. Campbell is both author and illustrator of this delightful children's picture book.

Lester is an obsessive compulsive boy who uses a ruler to check that his socks are even. His parents force him to be polite about gifted sweaters from his family's new house guest. ("Say thank you, Lester," said Lester's mother. "Thank you." whispered Lester.)

Campbell's text plays with internal rhyme -- starting with the title -- and alliteration, starting with the first line in the book: Cousin Clara's cottage was consumed by a crocodile. The descriptions of Lester's sweaters are as wonderful as the illustrations of them. One is repulsively pumpkin, uncommonly crooked and had a hideous hood, another is an awful olive and had alarmingly large buttons. Repetition is also nice, especially for young readers learning to recognize new words: the less than pleasant yellow sweater generates a less than pleasant remark from Lester's schoolmate, Enid. Another day, Enid said several irksome things about Lester's irksome pink sweater. (Enid reminded me of Nellie Oleson, as played by Alison Arngrim, in the Little House on the Prairie tv series.)

The household items and toys in the background -- a stick telephone, a wringer-washing machine, a coal oil lamp -- set the story in the early twentieth century. Campbell's coloured pencil artwork is beautifully textured and evokes a feeling of nostalgia. The most vibrant tones are reserved for the wild yarn creations -- purple pompoms against yellow, pink buttons against green.

Readers of all ages will enjoy Campbell's visual jokes, like Enid's outfit, which rivals the outrageousness of Lester's sweaters, and is almost a perfect match for the pinata at her birthday party. Lester's father has a pointy shock of orange hair identical to that of a clown at the party. I found this photo of K.G. Campbell on the Kids Can Press website. Campbell looks a lot like Lester... and that papillon dog in the photo looks familiar too...

Highly recommended.

Readalikes: Amos's Sweater (Janet Lunn and Kim LaFave); Rude Ramsey and the Roaring Radishes (Margaret Atwood and Dusan Petricic); and The Pet Shop Revolution (Ana Juan).

No comments: