Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Ages: If they like Dr. Seuss!
I have no idea if Ed Shankman and Dave Frank attended Woodstock.
To my eye, they look a tad too young, judging by their picture on the back inside flap. Then again, the book came out in 2001, and we are coming up on 2009.
And of course, not everyone who says they were at Woodstock was actually at Woodstock.
The same thing, however, cannot be said about the party in Kalamazoo.
You see, the party in Kalamazoo is being held ten years from now. That means every kid can hold the hope of attending. Every kid can imagine that someday they too will be able to say, "I Went to the Party in Kalamazoo."
Woodstock? For has-beens. Kalamazoo? The future!
Shankman plays nimbly with time
Written in near-flawless Seussian rhyme, Ed Shankman's "Party" somehow never actually occurs. It is something to look forward to, and - afterwards - somewhere to boast having been to.
(Think Oh, the Places You'll Go!)
That's right: The Party in Kalamazoo is an event so special as to be doubly anticipatory: you look forward not only to going but to having went.
Yes indeed, what a party
As Ed explains on the inside flap, it's a book (and a party) "designed with a child's favorite things in mind."
Dave Frank's joyous illustrations capture such an event. His wondrous Kalamazoo is a place with separate sandboxes for every child. Not that The Party is limited to children. No, animals attend in abundance and the odd adult as well.
As detailed on the flap, "Ed and Dave are two veteran creative directors who own and operate an advertising agency."
These guys are good, scary good. Here's hoping their next project isn't promoting "Chocolate Covered Sugar Flakes."
The book itself bespeaks two guys with total creative control, and toward that end it should be noted that this is a self-published book. From the front cover credits - simply "Ed and Dave" - to their own cartoon portraits, these are guys with an eye for detail and a clear sense of branding.
They note inside that "this book is not available in most stores." Of course, it did not escape the attention of these two ad agency pros that the book might develop a special following in Kalamazoo, and indeed it has.
They encourage buyers to spread the word and to contact them, and - indeed - their other page on my site has resulted in bookstores and parents contacting me to try to get in touch. Their efforts have resulted in over 8000 book sales to date, quite impressive for an independent publishing effort.
In fact, the success of I Went to the Party in Kalamazoo has resulted in a three book publishing contract for Shankman. (And he hasn't lost his sense of "place": the two books so far are I Met a Moose in Maine and Boston Balloonies.)
The book isn't entirely without flaws
A select few of Shankman's stanzas feature meter that feels about a half syllable overfull, but that only serves to remind us just how easy Seuss made it all seem. (It wasn't easy at all!) And Frank's figures could stand to spend a little more time interacting with each other and a little less smiling at the reader.
But these are small criticisms. I Went to the Party in Kalamazoo wouldn't feel at all out of place on the same bookshelf as your most treasured Seuss.
Read more of Steve's book reviews.