Illustrated by Brian Lovelock
(Candlewick Press, 2012)
Everyone knows you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But, let’s face it, everyone does. Publishers devote gobs of time, fretting over the design and the graphics that potential readers will see if the book is fortunate enough to have more than its spine displayed on shelves.
The cover for Demolition succeeds in grabbing one’s attention. A bright red and white candy-cane strip edges the top of the front and back cover and the title stretches tall in white block letters across a deep blue background. But the illustration of a bright yellow excavator bashing against fallen concrete slabs is the clincher. For a young boy, the message is, READ ME!
I think the copy I picked up at my local library may be a print error as the pages inside are upside down and the story begins inside the back cover. If it is, in fact, intentional, this topsy-turvy effect of demolition is entirely unnecessary.
Enough about covers and possible design defects. On with the story! There are things to destroy! This is a rhyming picture book, one verse per double-page spread. Each follows a formula, with a repeated statement on the first line and a trio of onomatopoeic zingers appearing on the fourth. The opening verse provides a sample:
Buckle, tie, and strap.
Safety jackets, boots, and hats.Zip! STAMP! SNAP!
It’s catchy until it feels monotonous. I’m guessing five-year-old boys won’t mind though. The real attraction is seeing a building come tumbling down. The writer and illustrator do an admirable job, chronicling the destruction of a building and the transformation of its parts into a children’s playground on the same site. The machinery (defined in the back of the book) is well drawn and will hold children’s focus. On many pages, however, the images of workers appear simplistic, closer resembling Fisher Price figures than real people. Intentional? Perhaps, but I’d prefer more realism. In fact, actual photographs might have been a bigger draw.
Of course, I am not the primary audience for this book. There are many adults and children who pause to peek in holes kindly cut into large boards of plywood that otherwise keep us at bay at city construction projects. Demolition will surely be a favorite among many children and I can imagine many parents won’t mind performing repeat reads. It will allow them to polish there booming depictions of lines like, “Bang! CLANG! CLACK!” This is not the soothing choice for a bedtime story, but it can serve as a warm-up to a busy afternoon with toy tractors conquering large heaps in the local sandbox.