Text and illustrations by Bill Thomson
2016 (Two Lions)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Three kids are riding their bikes on a winter day. In their path is a merry-go-round. Also curious is a monarch butterfly that is flying around out of season. Making it a trio of out of the ordinary, there is a black box with large white letters sitting on a bumblebee seat. If it's fifty year old me, I'm turning around and pretending I didn't see anything. This would make for a lousy book so it's good that the kids are more intrigued. Opening the box, they find a typewriter. They have prior knowledge of the machine because the girl runs to her bookbag and finds a piece of paper. She's types beach and suddenly they are on a deserted beach. Typing ball yields a beach ball. Typing ice cream brings about a massive orange pail filled with a sundae and a cherry the size of your head. Then comes a twist that I would want to discuss with my students. The girl types crab. I would ask my class why she typed that word. I can understand crab cake or crab dip but after seeing the gargantuan ice cream pail, I'm thinking I want no part of a living thing produced by this typewriter. Sure enough, mayhem follows. The crab punctures the beach ball and chases the kids. Here's where a fun prediction lesson ensues. I would ask young readers what word they would type to get rid of the crab. That can also lead to a great cause and effect lesson because your "rescue" word might be worse than the crab problem. Fortunately for the kids, this girl is very bright and saves the day by not only removing the crab but also getting them home. How does she do it? I would want several predictions produced by a turn and talk before I revealed the answer.
Bill Thomson's clever story is equally matched by his tremendous artwork. I love the expressions on the faces and the shadows cast by different objects. The paintings are very lifelike and not computer generated. If you know someone who teaches art, I would share this book. Children like adventure and stories where they could imagine themselves as the hero. The Typewriter scores on both counts. Teachers like stories where brains buzz and fun writing possibilities abound. I am going to ask students to create a list of 5 words that they would type and have them make a story around the list. The Typewriter will stretch imaginations and bring smiles to young readers.