David Shannon's No, David!
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
The words a kid hears most
The Author's Note on the publisher page of this book contains more words than the book itself! But if you really want to get to the heart of what inspired this brilliant picture book, you have to read the note.
It begins like this:
A few years ago, my mother sent me a book I made when I was a little boy. It was called No, David, and it was illustrated with drawings of David doing all sorts of things he wasn't supposed to do...
Shannon goes on to say that seeing the book by his five year old self inspired him to do the "remake" I'm now reviewing. Shannon continues:
I thought it would be fun to do a remake celebrating those familiar variations of the universal "no" that we all hear while growing up.
Of course, "yes" is a wonderful word...but "yes" doesn't keep crayon off the living room wall.
I guess that makes No, David! the world's shortest autobiography by the world's youngest author.
Weighing in at less than 100 words (about half of them being No), the impact of this book is actually heightened by its narrow focus. It can be hard for your little ones to hear that fun-killing word again and again, day in and day out, so there's something reassuring for them in being read a book that makes light of No...and shows that the word afflicts other children too.
Just as the text speaks a universal truth - "No" happens - Shannon's Caldecott Honor illustrations speak primal ones. If you aren't familiar with Mr. Shannon's style of art, it can take you, the adult, aback at first.
Shannon's acrylics feature a devilish David with a head like a demon-possessed snowman and a mouth more than a little reminiscent of a great white shark. He appears absolutely driven to live larger than life and in a way sure to do damage - though damage isn't his goal. Doing is.
I can tell you that kids find No, David! liberating. Shannon depicts a true-to-life child who just wants to be physical, but kids can also see for themselves how the actions are likely to, well, break things.
They can laugh with David and at him. With a minimum of words, Shannon captures perfectly the points of view of both child and parent.
The book's narrative is truly a crescendo of No. David writes on walls, tracks mud through the house, floods the bathroom, bangs pots and pans and plays with his food while his mom tries to control him. He's sent to his room, but his sturdy ego survives even that.
But then he breaks a vase, and the book turns visceral for both mother and child. David is sent to time-out. He seems to finally know he's done wrong. Like that great white shark, it's unnatural for David not to be moving, and the joy drains right out of him. A tear falls from his eye, and his mother sees it.
A seeming millisecond from meltdown, he faces his mother, wet-eyed and wide-eyed, throwing his arms wide open for a hug.
Mom holds him, and says, for the first time:
Yes, David...I love you.
You, too, may want to say, "Yes," to David Shannon's No, David!
It's hard to say No to a book that captures perfectly the emotional tug of war between kids and parents and ends in a hug.
Webmaster's note: David Shannon has authored numerous books and illustrated many others. (Amazon's David Shannon page) They include
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