beware: today is chu’s day

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay 15: Chu’s Day

by Neil Gaiman, illus by Adam Rex

Harper (HarperCollins), 2013.

chu cover and page“When Chu sneezed, bad things happened.” This is the first line of the story, and I’m hooked. What sort of bad things happened? As the story progresses I add: and how bad could it possibly be? Why are this cute little panda and his parents so concerned?–and they are seriously concerned. You notice, on the book’s cover, the blush and expression of apology and horror on Chu’s face and posture. That is what comes after he sneezes. From the start you get the sense that the results of Chu’s sneeze is going to be embarrassing, horrifying (if you distinguish the two), and going to require an explanation.

chus day2

When Chu is winding up to sneeze, “aah-aaah- aaaah-,” he is relegated to white space, removed from his detailed setting, a potential little explosive on the page. The detail in the settings are not only a pleasure to explore, but juxtaposed with the white we get a building of tension. These are highly populated spaces and what will happen if Chu sneezes? We can imagine varying degrees of the sort bad things that could result from Chu’s sneeze. Will he make a loud, disruptive noise in a library; blow snot all over a book; blow a book across the room; or knock an elephant of his perch? 


The timing for this kind of story is crucial and Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex, unsurprisingly, nail it. The serious tone supported by the worried pandas and the relative realism employed in the illustrations play into the ridiculous fun of a book about a boy’s potential, I mean, sneeze. Chu’s Day has a pleasurable wind-up and its suitably thrilling end.

With two veteran storytellers who are known for their humor, imagination, and originality at its helm, you can bet Chu’s Day will carry just the right note beginning to end.

{images belong to Adam Rex}

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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