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Review of Du Iz Tak?

ellis_du iz takstar2 Du Iz Tak?
by Carson Ellis; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    48 pp.
10/16    978-0-7636-6530-2    $16.99    g

Picture books have traditionally been a rich source of neologisms. Grinch, knuffle: plums in the puddings of picture book texts. In this story, told in dialogue, Ellis pushes that tradition and invents an entire language. On the first spread an elongated Edwardian-style dragonfly points to a small green shoot poking out of the ground. “Du iz tak?” the creature asks its equally elegant companion. “Ma nazoot,” is the reply. We decode the meaning from the picture, much in the way an emerging 
or ESL reader might. (The giant 
expanse of creamy page gives us room to ponder.) Five words, and we’re already starting to get a handle on the grammar. The green shoot grows, and a different group of sartorially splendid bugs, this time a trio, has its say. The bugs need something: “Ru badda unk ribble.” What is a ribble, and where will they get it? Page design and language get progressively fancier as the bug people build a tree house — with the use of the ribble — in the plant. Joy explodes when the plant flowers. “Unk gladdenboot!  Unk scrivadelly gladdenboot!” Then fall comes, the plant withers, and the bug family moves on. In a wordless coda of successive double-page spreads we are comforted by the cycle of the seasons. By the final words, “Du iz tak?” we are fluent speakers of Bug. Completely scrivadelly, this is a tour de force of original storytelling.

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sarah Ellis

Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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