If David J. Plant’s Hungry Roscoe were a song it would be “Uptown Funk,” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. Like that ubiquitous tune, Roscoe takes its cues from days past, and creates something of the moment; it’s both a throwback and modern.
The narrative recalls the stories of Gene Zion and Syd Hoff. There’s no over-riding message here; a situation is established, and stuff happens, clean and simple. A city raccoon named Roscoe is unhappy with the culinary fare he finds in garbage cans; he sets off to the zoo, where food for the animals is bountiful, but his hunt is blocked by an ill-tempered zoo keeper, forcing Roscoe to get creative.
Hungry Roscoe isn’t likely to trigger any discussions about making friends or treating people the way you want to be treated yourself, or even about being nice to animals and not wasting food; if there is a message to this book it would take a cipher to figure out, but kids will love the action, and parents will not likely have any problem reading and re-reading it. This is a genuinely funny children’s picture book.
Roscoe is a wonderful character, and in a just world, he would be the focus of a book series, toys and a TV series. I don’t know if that’s in the cards, but it would make me abundantly happy to see him again in another adventure.
Visually, this recalls the work of greats like Mary Blair and Miroslav Šašek. The illustrations are colourful, and manage to be simultaneously muted and bold. Upon finishing for the first time, I immediately went back and examined some of the pictures up close. The characters are expressive and convincing; the animals are anthropomorphized, but just barely, which works wonders.
(It should be said, I guess, that the ending of the book feels a bit sudden, but it does little to diminish the power of the story.)
With Hungry Roscoe, David J. Plant has announced himself as an immensely talented new player in the world of children’s picture books, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Hungry Roscoe in return for an honest review. Read about our review policy HERE.