With a three-year-old who considers roaring his first language, and a five-year-old with a penchant for cosplay, we are happily enjoying the books of author David Derrick. Whether portraying an animal debate as to who is the scariest thing in the jungle, or showing a defiant boy pretending to be every animal under the sun, he really engages my boys’ imaginations.
If you are looking for a new author to explore in the wake of Read Across America Day, look no further than the wild world of David Derrick. His credentials lie in both the natural world and the animated one, which comes across strongly in his animal stories for children. He is a story artist at Disney and was previously at DreamWorks, where he was a contributor on Megamind, How to Train Your Dragon, Bee Movie, Flushed Away, and Rise of the Guardians. Derrick is both a wildlife artist and bronze sculptor, whose work is heavily influenced by extensive observations of his subjects. He wrote African Diaries: Sketches & Observations, an exploration of Africa in sketches and sculpture that arose from his safari in East Africa. He is an activist in addition to being an artist and writer, and participated in the United Nations 2009 Year of the Gorilla campaign. He has donated artwork to be used in raising both funds and awareness in order to save gorillas and their habitat. As well as being featured at book fairs across the country, Derrick’s works are often seen at events such as the annual convention for Zoos & Aquariums.
His first book Sid the Squid was published in 2010. Its protagonist, Sid, as you may have guessed, is a rather large squid. Painfully aware that everyone in the ocean seems to have their own particular job to do, except for him, he sets off on land to search San Francisco in order to find his place. After trying many jobs, Sid finally realizes that while having a job is important, having the right job, one that he loves, is just as important.
Sid the Squid was swiftly followed by Animals Don’t, So I Won’t, and while my boys enjoyed this book and I liked its whimsy, it was hated by my husband and quickly passed along. Be warned! The book tells the tale of a boy who doesn’t wish to co-operate with his mother. He transforms into all sorts of animals in order to get out of various activities, like tidying up or brushing his teeth. My boys love this story; they listen to it while hanging like a sloth or roaring like a lion. My husband hates it. He feels it encourages them towards such behavior themselves, and we already struggle to get them to brush their teeth! However, the story is imaginative and sparks their imaginations and the artwork is simply wonderful.
Derrick’s third book, released in 2013, is easily the family favorite. I’m the Scariest Thing in the Jungle tells the story of a young crocodile and young tiger, as they debate who is the scariest thing in the jungle. They list their features back and forth, each proclaiming why they are the scariest. The font color is different for each animal so that your child can easily identify who is talking, without any “he said, she said” language getting in the way. It’s a wonderful device that works very well. You learn all kinds of things about the behavior and habitats of each animals, as they progress through the jungle; though I’m sure the friendship isn’t as tight in real life. Eventually, the youngsters realize they have strayed too far into the jungle alone, and just who is the scariest thing in the jungle. I won’t spoil the ending for you. It’s too wonderful.
We have yet to dig into the most recent book, Play With Your Food, but I expect that to be just as visually stimulating and informative as the first three. In an eat or be eaten prehistoric world, a Coelurosauravus (small lizard) finds himself on the menu and tries to convince the Dimetrodon in question to play with his food instead of eating it.
Derrick is primarily an artist and conservationist, and this comes across heavily in his works for children. I have always been a big advocate of zoos and aquariums for putting people into direct contact with animals that they need to see, understand, and appreciate in order to protect. Derrick manages to accomplish that in stories that leap off the page. These are definitely worth exploring with your budding young adventurers. You can learn more about Derrick’s world at his blog.
GeekMom received two of the books for review purposes.