Monday, November 26, 2012

The Great Fuzz Frenzy

Genre: Fiction/Picture Book
Suggested age:  5-12
Author: Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
Illustrator:  Janet Stevens
ISBN: 9780439023092
Publisher:  Scholastic, 2005

Following the disgusting display of shoppers rioting during Black Friday in the US, I came across The Great Fuzz Frenzy and saw the parallel social commentary and just had to share.

It happened one day when a hapless Golden Retriever loses his beloved green tennis ball into a prairie dog burrow.  What happens next will be remembered for all time among the Prairie Dog community as the time when the “whole prairie was abuzz about fuzz”   that turned into, “a fuzz fiasco”.  It was The Great Fuzz Frenzy!  When Pip discovers the allure of the “fuzz”, it quickly becomes a race to see who can own the most fuzz and be the most creative with it; but, the fuzz runs out and the prairie dogs turn against one another in a greed driven frenzy.  When their greed hits a climax it takes the threat of hungry eagle to rally the prairie dogs to unite and save their fellow dog.  Once the excitement dies down, the community vows to be fuzzless forevermore thus ensuring the reader of a happy ending.  However, as the reader turns the page, a familiar character is reintroduced into the story……

This story is just chock-full of tongue in cheek references such as, “they came, they saw, they picked” and silly name calling by the self-proclaimed prairie dog leader, Big Bark.  As much as I enjoyed reading this book silently to myself, I have to assert that to really appreciate the brilliance of the writing; one must read it out loud, to an audience of primary students.  Dust off your Monty Python accent and give this story 150% of your enthusiasm as it rightly deserves!
 The artful illustrations done by Janet Stevens often find themselves too grand for the book and demand pull out pages.  The fill every inch of the page allowing the text to craftily fit itself in and amongst the  prairie dogs which is quite fitting based on the amount of dialogue bouncing back and forth among the inhabitants of the burrow.  The dark earth and rocks that comprise the burrow often have ants, beetles, and earthworms cleverly embedded to remind the reader that this story, is indeed, loosely based on facts ; )  Stevens also uses a variety of shades of brown that somehow make her mostly monochromatic illustrations lift right off the page.  It also serves to highlight “the fuzz” which is consists of a day-glo neon green fabric. 
I see being able to use this book in the library and classroom (and of course, at home!) to show novice readers the art of voice, clever tongue-in-cheek wit, the amusement of writing with consonance, and of course, the broader social implications of the tale of The Great Fuzz Frenzy.

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