- Craig Graziano
Chu's Day, the new picture book by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Adam Rex, must have found some of its inspiration from the YouTube video in which a baby panda sneezes so explosively that its poor mother is absolutely shocked.
Chu is a young panda who has bad things happen when he sneezes. With this fact begins the suspenseful build towards the big event. Just how destructively massive will Chu's sneeze be? We go to a library with dusty books. Chu is able to restrain himself. We go to a diner with pepper in the air. Chu manages to hold back, but trouble begins to brew at the circus.
The book also was inspired by Gaiman's desire to have a children's book that would be able to be released in China. In his previous children's books, The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, the child characters question their elders and get into mild mischief. This anti-authority content was considered ill-fitted for China.
Because of Gaiman's goal, the story is somewhat one note. No mischief here. What saves the book is Adam Rex's gorgeous artwork. Different animals from all walks of life are at each place that Chu goes. At Moby's Diner, there is a bald eagle having lunch with a tapier, a kangaroo waitress, and of course a great white whale as the chef. This element of the book reminds me of Richard Scarry's work, where different animals would go about their business in the great big city. The drawings are definitely what make this book a treat.
Gaiman has already written a follow-up book that I'm hoping with bring a little bit more to the table in terms of story. Regardless, Chu's Day is an explosion of cute that will best be enjoyed by a very young audience.