Vernon Is on His Way: Small Stories
by Philip C. Stead, Roaring Brook Press, 2018.
Given that Philip Stead is married to Erin Stead, a Caldecott Medal winning illustrator, the first thing a person does when picking up this book is to look for the illustrator. Often it will specify an illustrator or if the author is both, but it did not. On the copyright page it was specified that the artwork was “handmade using gouache, water-soluble crayon, chalk pastel, and charcoal”. In fact, Philip Stead illustrated this book himself all of which is important as the illustrations are drop dead charming. So many children’s books can be overtly juvenile or exceedingly feminine needlessly going down a path of gender stereotyping. The colorful illustrations in this book would appeal to most people regardless of age or gender. They are the star of the show.
In the story Stead brings back Vernon, Skunk and Porcupine from the well-received precursor A Home for Bird. Uniquely endearing is when Skunk and Porcupine are toting a kite over their heads while making mention of the butterfly on Vernon’s head, a fact of which Vernon is completely oblivious.
Unlike a lot of children’s picture books, this one contains three stories: Waiting, Fishing and Gardening again pretty gender-neutral themes. Some may claim that the words used would be too much for young children to read independently. First, that can be taken as a challenge to boost reading levels. Further, I suspect with the illustrations, it will be adults that do the mass of the reading. The rub might come in with regard to parental readers. In totality, the book is sixty-four pages long with every page of illustration not to be missed. What to do if this becomes the book your child wants to read every night for six months? Vernon Is on His Way is a delightful book that will make adults think too.