REVIEW: BUDDY AND EARL GO EXPLORING, BY MAUREEN FERGUS AND CAREY SOOKOCHEFF

buddy earl go exploringBuddy and Earl Go Exploring
Written by Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Published by Groundwood Books

In August of last year we reviewed the first Buddy and Earl book, aptly titled Buddy and Earl. We said that it was “the single most jubilant read we’ve had yet.” We said that the character of Earl was “so beyond lovable he ranks alongside (and in our house, anyway, eclipses) Ian Falconer’s Olivia and Mo Willem’s Pigeon.” We said “it’s difficult to imagine another author and illustrator being as in sync as Fergus and Sookocheff.”

Buddy and Earl was even awarded three –THREE!– coveted Kindie Awards for 2015.

Now we welcome the second book in the series, Buddy and Earl Go Exploring. Sophomore efforts are notoriously difficult; how many times has a debut author been heralded as a “brave new voice” or “the next (insert name of established genius here)” only to –pardon our french– crap the bed on their second book? How many times has a new group released a first album which lights the world on fire, only to release a second that fizzles into obscurity? It’s difficult to hit the sweet spot twice in a row, and even harder when your first shot was so incredibly good.

Luckily for us, Buddy and Earl Go Exploring is more Weezer’s Pinkerton than it is The Stone Roses’ Second Coming; that is to say, it’s excellent. Another triumph.

Following close to the template laid out in the first book, Earl, in all his delusional grandeur, leads Buddy on an adventure, this time exploring with no specific place in mind.

buddy-and-earl_1Everything that was said about the debut can be said about the follow-up. Earl is a character worthy of a range of merchandise; funny, and not in the way picture books described as funny are usually funny, which is to say not really funny at all. He’s exuberant. His belief in what he says is complete. He is wonderful.

Maureen Fergus and Carey Sookocheff have on their hands another contender for book of the year. And with a third in the series on its way (Buddy and Earl and the Great Big Baby comes out in August) maybe we’ll eventually get our wish for a series of toys and a TV show, perhaps.

This time, I do have one complaint: The (brief) bit with the vacuum cleaner feels a bit dropped in. Nothing leads to it, it’s over before it gets started and it’s clearly there only to provide some balance (Buddy helps Earl throughout, so Earl needs to have helped Buddy at some point) between the two characters. This couldn’t be a less significant complaint, however.

Undoubtedly, there’s something remarkably special about these books. In our Proust-Esque Questionnaires we ask the subjects “What is your earliest memory of children’s literature?” I would be un-surprised, should we be fortunate to still be asking that questions of creators in 25 years, to see some exciting new author or illustrator say “I remember being given the Buddy and Earl books when I was a kid and laughing my friggin’ ass off reading them…”

Brilliant. We love Buddy and Earl.


Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Buddy and Earl Go Exploring in exchange for an honest review. Read about our Review Policy HERE.

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