Thursday, July 19, 2018

Grace For Gus by Harry Bliss

An Adventure Through New York City

- A Graphic Picture Book -

Grace, a dark-haired girl wearing glasses (with no eyes showing behind the glasses), and her classmates are reminded by their teacher that Gus, the classroom's guinea pig, needs a friend. There is a large glass jar that says Gus Buddy Fund for student contributions. 

At the end of the school day Grace pets Gus between the eyes, and he licks her finger. She then runs through the streets to get home to her two dads where she eats, helps them clean up, works at the computer, brushes her teeth, then kisses both dads goodnight. In her room, she puts on a backpack, ball cap and hangs on to a violin case as she sneaks out her bedroom window.

It is quite late in New York as she heads toward the subway where she plays her violin for tips. She then moves up to the sidewalk to set up an easel to draw caricatures for $3. Then back to the subway for her return trip home. However, the performing hasn't ended. She hops on a pole on the subway car and swings and twirls, attracting more tips and attention. 

Lights are now on as she strolls past buildings and re-enters her bedroom window. She falls asleep next to her cat.

The next day as she walks into her classroom she looks at her watch. She is late. 

So what was all the evening excitement about?

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Actually, several things bothered me. Most of the humor, through illustrations, is directed toward adults. Many things are cute, but some are distasteful.  "Rump Tower"  isn't necessary, regardless of whether you like him or not. And as Grace more or less does her pole dance on the subway we see caricatures of Donald Trump and Woody Allen.

Another concern is the fact that the reader has gained no attachment to Gus, the guinea pig. Nice for him to have a friend, after all the reader isn't heartless, but do we really care? Not so much.

And for a little girl to sneak out and run the streets of New York at night? Call me silly, but that isn't a story I want to read to a child.

**Spoiler Alert** Now to the ending. Grace comes to school late and becomes a hero as she fills the jar with money she has earned by working all night.

What I Liked Most: As an adult, there are many things to enjoy when examining the illustrations. Some of the funny things older kids will spot: at lunch, one boy is carrying a full turkey on his plate, one boy is looking sad as he holds a tin of sardines, and a girl with her front teeth (both top and bottom) missing is eating corn on the cob. The gap in her teeth is the only place corn remains on the cob.

Things for adults to discover are silhouettes of Alfred Hitchcock; a framed picture of Alfred E. Neuman, Trump sitting under a Tax Relief sign on the subway; Nancy, a character from a comic strip; a picture of Little Lulu; and various references to famous people on signs and books.

My rating reflects the fact that the illustrations are full of many references to noted people (both real and fictional), and gags. I rate the illustrations 3 Stars. I would rate the story 1 Star since it is a picture book for children yet didn't feel appropriate for that age group.

Author/Illustrator: Harry Bliss

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 2018)

Approx. Word Count: 22
Ages: 4 - 8
Pages: 40

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