Page 45 Review by Stephen
The eyes have it. They surely do!
They're so expressive that the faces don't need a mouth; that would lessen their impact considerably. They stare out at you, in this case more than a little anxiously, making a contact with yours that is remarkably difficult to break.
And I love that Klassen's covers can be so iconic that a title's unnecessary. What else would this book be called, and how on earth could possibly you resist it?
From the creators of the deliciously mischievous SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE - and so much more that you can find in our all-encompassing Page 45's Jon Klassen section for Young Readers - comes a second helping of shapely shenanigans, this time starring Square and Circle.
Shapes are indeed what this is all about. That, and finding yourself a little out of your depth after compliments are given, based on erroneous assumptions, and you haven't quite found it within your heart to come clean. Hmmm. Tricky one!
Square is a simple soul whose life is relatively straightforward.
"Every day, Square goes down to his cave and takes a block from the pile below ground.
"He pushes the block up and out of the cave.
"He brings the block to the pile at the top of the hill.
"This is his work."
"This is his work."
Square stands next to his square blocks of stone, staring out at us, as if to say, "What?"
It's an exquisite moment of engagement between the reader and the protagonist. "This is his work." That's it. That's what he does. It is his Purpose. Look at Square again! He's definitely asking you, "What?!"
Anyway, one day while Square is hard at work, Circle floats by.
"Square!" said Circle. "You are a genius! I did not know that you were a sculptor!"
"Ah yes," said Square. "What is a sculptor?"
"A sculptor shapes blocks into art," said Circle.
"Ah, yes," said Square. "I see what you mean."
But he did not really see what she meant.
"This is a wonderful sculpture," said Circle. It looks just like you!"
And it does! It's even the same colour and texture as Square. And Circle, as it happens. Square looks at his block of rock, dubiously. Now would probably be a good time to come clean, before...
"Now," said Circle, "you must do one of me."
"Oh," said Square.
Yes, before that. Square eyes Circle and his square block of rock quite anxiously. They're very different shapes.
"I will come back for it tomorrow! Good-bye, genius!"
"Circle," said Square, "I think I should tell you something."
But he doesn't.
Now, I'm not going to take you any further but Square does seem in a right pickle, doesn't he? He's in for quite the night.
Aside for Klassen's laugh-out-loud expressions, part of the comedy lies in the economy of Mac Barnett's storytelling: simple sentences eschewing contractions, direct and honest, contrasting with the other economy here - that with the truth!
Returning to the expressions, though, there is a final note of exasperation which I deliberately don't have for you here because I don't want you to see what becomes of the stone under Square's ham-fisted administrations. But there he stands in the pouring rain, his arms thrown out in... well, exasperation really is the only word for it... a leafy twig on his lodged on his noggin, looking for all the world like the ultimate in tetchy vexation, Sage the Owl from The Herb Garden.
So, whatever will happen in the morning?
Rarely have I encountered such a successfully sprung surprise which, as with most Klassen creations and collaboration could only be accomplished visually, reflecting Barnet's extraordinary stroke of lateral thinking for - as so very often, I've found - salvation lies in serendipity.