Would you rather be a stick or a stone? A cat or a dog? Thunder or lightning? William Steig (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
) teams up with illustrator Harry Bliss (A Fine, Fine School
) in this simple picture book that cleverly illustrates the Would you rather... game popularized by the chirp y, leggy Jiminy Cricket. A magician's bunny, equipped with wand and black top hat, asks a boy and a girl which of two things they'd rather be. "A stick?" he asks as he conjures a stick out of the hat. "Or a stone?" he asks as he produces a hovering rock. Of course, the action picks up a little as living creatures start to emerge from the hat. (The kids have to run off, for instance, when they have to choose between a mouse and an elephant.) Grownup or kid? The grownup is a balding businessman reading a newspaper (while sticking out of the magician's hat), the kid is a skateboarding kid zooming out of the hat. The children, usually silent, quickly decide on that one.
If Harry Bliss had to choose between being himself or a bird, he wouldn't decide at all. He would want wings and he "definitely would not eat worms--no way." There's plenty of fodder for a lively read-aloud session here, as kids get creative in their analysis of the pros and cons of being a cat or a dog, etc., etc. For more complicated (and downright odd) choices, try John Burningham's delightful Would You Rather.... (Ages 3 to 6) --Karin Snelson
From Publishers Weekly
In this wonderfully economical exercise, a shrewd question-and-answer format harmonizes with fine-tuned images. On almost every page, a big gray rabbit faces two children across an upside-down top hat. The rabbit is matter-of-fact, not cute. Voice bubbles contain its deadpan questions ("Which would you rather be?/ A stick/ or a stone?/ A cat/ or a dog?"), as each possibility emerges from the hat and the children react with a word or a gesture. When the dog chases the cat, the girl shoots an irritated look at her laughing friend, who shouts, "A dog!" As a hockey player crawls from the hat ("A boy"), the displeased girl crosses her arms. Her scowl turns to a competitive smirk when the next question ("or a girl?") suggests the skater could be female. After "an elephant" fills the page, only the boy's departing foot can be seen as the children retreat; when "a crocodile" lunges out, a well-placed voice bubble and the croc's gaze indicate that all three players have exited stage right. Bliss (illus. of A Fine, Fine School) composes his wry illustrations on a blank white ground in the fluid style of Charles M. Schulz or Crockett Johnson, and he loads his characters' every movement with subtle meaning. As in his Pete's a Pizza, Steig provides many more options than hard-and-fast rules, leaving the continuation of this game to the bemused audience. Ages 3-7.
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