Friday, April 25, 2008

Hey, Al

Hey, Al
Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski
Harper Collins, 1986

There is a lot to be creeped out about when it comes to this book. Even though it is clearly a kid's book and won the Caldecott Medal as such, the pictures and story hint at adult themes like despair and hopelessness. The refreshingly unchildlike tone is used to relay the morality tale of the grass is always greener. The beautiful paintings that illustrate are extremely sophisticated, and I love that the "bad guys" in this book are birds. Appearing to be helpful in one minute then revealing their true colors in the next.

As far as kids' books go, you couldn't get one that is packed with more mystery. A man and his dog lead a dead end life until a strange bird appears at their window and offers them more.

One morning, while Al was shaving, a voice called to him.
"Hey, Al," it said. Al turned and saw a bird. A large bird.
"Al," said the bird, "Are you working too hard? Still struggling and going nowhere? Hmmmmm? Listen. Have I got a place for you.
No worries, no cares -- it's terrific."
"Huh?" Al said. He was confused.
"Al, Al, Al!" You need a change.
Tomorrow, come and be my guest. Eddie, too.
You'll see, you'll love it!"

Then, with a few flaps, the bird was gone.

It took me a few reads to fall in love with this one, but my son dug it so hard, I had to give in. The author started a very interesting theatrical troupe called The Night Kitchen Radio Theater, which to me just adds to the mystery of it all. Though, he famously collaborated with Maurice Sendak and Matthew Reinhart on the pop-up Mommy? a few years back, his best might be the spellbinder It Happened in Pinsk.


  1. Just wanted to drop you guys a little note saying how much I love your blog! Each book is like a little piece of art that needs special love and attention!

    Thanks for taking the time to highlight these wonderful classic stories.

  2. no sweat. really. seriously. i am obsessed. it keeps me up at night.