{book} the guild of geniuses

on

DAY 16

The Guild of Geniuses by Dan Santat

Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2004.

Dan Santat has been on my radar since Sidekicks and from a bookshop browsing of the laugh-out-loud Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show (w/ Michael Buckley) [review to come]. I’d seen him in Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World (w/ Mac Barnett) and the cover of Lisa Yee’s Bobby vs Girls, both I can easily recommend.

Movie Star Frederick and Mr. Pip (a monkey) are best friends. A big party is thrown for Frederick’s birthday with many important guests and really impressive gifts before he has to travel for a film shoot. Before he goes, Frederick notices Mr. Pip seems down and he can’t figure out why. Well, if anyone can help solve the mystery surely it is the Guild of Geniuses, they have figured out all kinds of marvelous solutions for other things. Can they figure out what is wrong with Mr. Pip and help resolve his problem? Can you?

Just when you think that you need to do something clever and exceptional to be impressive, here comes the reminder in Dan Santat’s The Guild of Geniuses that often it is the simple and unassuming things that speak to a relationship more effectively. “You don’t have to be a genius to be a good friend” (publisher copy). Sure it is fun to think about all these grandiose gestures or inventions or adventures, but anyone who knows my friend Juanita Martus, or has met Mr. Pip in The Guild of Geniuses knows there is power in a home-made heart-felt gesture—like a card. They find and give the nurturing kind of gifts; the kind that with no doubt at all let you know they are thinking of you, not themselves. We often think too hard, go too extravagantly whether the person is a celebrity-type or no. Sometimes the obvious answer seems small, but then, it is obvious for a reason, and the answer to why is Mr. Pip down won’t be hard for the reader to identify early on. Still, it is fun to watch Frederick and the Guild try. And it all builds toward a very sweet ending for what we come to appreciate as a very precious friendship.

Yes, I used the word precious. But you’ll notice all the rich colors, energetic angles, and the imagination at play. This isn’t watercolor or pastoral or lavender-scented. This is “acrylic and mixed media on Bristol paper, a little elbow grease, and the right side of the brain.” This has solid gold cars, robots, a monkey in space, and crazy facial hair. It is big and loud and fun with a lot of movement and inspiring ideas. The Guild of Geniuses is for boys and girls to pull of the shelf of their own accord as opposed to the set-up. “So I found this great book, Natalya! We could read it together if you want…” as we are prone to do, read great books together; but this just so happens to be that time of year where a great friend’s birthday, or Holiday, or some parent’s day is closing in… Actually, I am thinking that maybe ‘set-ups’ might help with those reading comprehension skills because Natalya is exceptional in that area and I ‘set her up’ all the time with these books. “I know what this book’s about and what you are doing,” Natalya still says years later. Good news is though that it is very likely the child in your life will just think you are cool, to say nothing of loving, if you recommend this one…if you set it up right. Seriously though, there is a quality to Santat’s style and storytelling that will appeal to our early reading ages.

recommend: Santat will easily appeal to the boys, but do not underestimate your girl-child either; science-/engineering- minded, although, isn’t every child early on? but you know what I mean, the mad-laboratory kind of child—which is everyone in the “early reader” set? nevermind… good for lovers of comics. also a good one to try on the reluctant reader/listening-to-reader kid.

{images belong to Dan Santat}

you can check out the endpapers image here, & take a sneak peek at the party at the end (which differs significantly (thematically) from the one near the beginning).

my review of Sidekicks

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