An off-the-wall story for young children by author Lemony Snicket with truly wonderful illustrations by Matt Forsythe. Adults may find this book slightly perplexing but children are likely to enjoy this quirky tale.
As the title suggests, this is a story about a bad mood and a stick. The bad mood (an emoji-like cloud character) moves from one character to another, travelling all around the world and causing unpredictable consequences. The stick is just a stick and does very little other than providing a home for a cocoon that gives birth to butterfly. The stick’s final home in the window of the ice cream shop does, however, put the shop owner, Bert, in a good mood.
The brief summary of this book probably makes this story sound a little odd. And it is, although this is probably to be expected given the story is the brainchild of author Lemony Snicket. The text is considerably longer than most picture books, there are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the story itself is rather disjointed with some strange leaps. Some of the scenarios have also caused controversy. For example, when the book was first published in the USA there was considerable criticism of a man taking off his dungarees in a dry cleaners and demanding they be washed while he sat around in his underwear.
Children, however, are much more likely to accept the book as I believe the author intended – quirky and funny – and are unlikely to worry about either the political correctness or lack of a narrative structure. In fact, I suspect they will love the idea of a bad mood as cloud that follows you around and will strongly identify with being in a bad mood for no particular reason. They’ll also probably like the way Curly’s bad mood disappears after poking her little brother with the stick!
My main issue with the text is more with the language. While the publishers have made some efforts to make this more suitable for a UK market (for example, I assume they’ve exchanged the word ‘store’ for ‘shop’ for the British edition), the text stills feels very American and I would have liked more changes. In particular, I didn’t like the way that Lou shouts ‘Holy moly!’ which means nothing to children on this side of the Atlantic. The inclusion of a racoon is also problematic but that would be less easy to substitute given the illustrations of the racoon in the book.
This brings me neatly onto the pictures and it is, without doubt, the illustrations that really make this book and which lift this from a 3 to a 4 star rating. Matt Forsythe’s stylised pictures are superb and his carefully selected limited range of colours (I’m told that in technical terms they are ‘analogous’ colours) make this book particularly appealing. Matt Forsythe’s artwork is simple and many of the pictures, particularly in the second half of the book, add a whole sub-storyline. I loved the way the bad mood follows the cat around and also the final page which shows our main character, Curly, dropping her ice cream and the bad mood waiting around the corner, smirking.
If you enjoyed this, you might like to check out Lemony Snicket’s other picture book The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen.