Book: John, Paul, George and Ben

John, Paul, George and Ben
Lane Smith

This is a fun picture book from the illustrator of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. It tells five stories, one about each of our founding fathers, and then ties them all together at the end. John’s story is about how he likes to write his name REALLY BIG, Paul’s story is about how he liked to ring church bells and they ruined his hearing so that he didn’t know he was shouting all the time, George’s story is about how he levelled his father’s cherry orchard but was forgiven because he was honest about it, Ben’s story is about how he gave advice to everyone and drove them all crazy, and Tom’s story is about how he is annoyingly independent and never does anything the way he is told to do it. And it is all tied together by their various traits all becoming useful for the American Revolution. And all along the way, it’s funny, clever and a little irreverent.

The writing is slightly piecemeal and almost sequential art like, but works wonderfully well for the story. The story is told very matter-of-factly and the speech bubbles are often part of the main text of the story. This makes it feel very dynamic as you move through the book. Each person’s story only occupies a few pages, but you get a good flavour of each character. The unusual format is fun and makes reading it entertaining and rather like reading a graphic novel in picture book form!

The art has the quirky quality that can been seen in all of Smith’s illustrations for Jon Scieszka’s books. They have a relatively unique collage drawing feel that works really well. It definitely enhances the humour of the story. I really enjoyed the way the illustrations directly interacted with the text. The book hinges on the way the two work together, and on this piece Smith got that completely right.

This is a fun and funny book. I highly recommend it, but it’s far better when shared with someone else!

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