Sunday, October 1, 2017

Melvin the Mouth:Young Mel Blanc

Melvin the Mouth
written by Katherine Blanc; illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I'm flying over the cat, laughing like a loony bird. I'm Melvin the Mouth, maker of sounds. 

There's going to be a little bit of bias here. Bugs Bunny was one of the molders of my childhood. He cracked wise, and I loved him for it. I'm occasionally humorous to my friends and family, and I owe part of that to Bugs and Mel Blanc. So I was thrilled to learn about this picture book biography and it doesn't disappoint. Instead of chronicling his whole career, the author (his daughter-in-law Katherine) presents a day in the life of young Melvin. It reads like a Looney Tunes cartoon and that's a good thing. Melvin starts with a laugh that will remind older fans of a certain red-headed bird on the loose. Racing through the halls of his school, he roars like a tiger. Melvin's imagination is brought to life with an accompanying black and white illustration of what he is portraying. In the bathroom, there's water so of course you need a shark chomping. If you have a hallway shaped like a tunnel, you're going to need a train with Melvin the engineer at the helm with "Woo-Woo"s echoing through. Putting young Mel on trash duty instead of recess will teach him a lesson, right? It will teach him that a half-eaten carrot can lead to a character that needed to take a left turn at Albuquerque. Any situation in Melvin's day is an opportunity to liven things up with his imagination. Sweeping calls for a tornado. Eating means a visit from a hungry hippo. It's only sleep that can quiet this noisemaker and even then, he sounds like a snoozing dragon.

I really like the approach taken with this picture book biography. It captures the zaniness that I remember being exhibited in those beloved Warner Brothers cartoons. Students will also see that using your imagination can lead to bigger things down the road. This will be such a fun read-aloud with your class as you use your imaginations to think about everyday occurrences and make connections like Melvin does in the book. The Author's Note provides information about Mel's career and some of the many characters that he voiced. Perfect for a biography unit/wax museum or just when you need a fun read.

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