Don’t get too attached to the protagonist in Pardon Me! He pays the ultimate price for his bad behavior in this be-good-or-else cautionary tale from Daniel Miyares, his debut picture book as both author and illustrator.
A little yellow bird sits peacefully on the dry spot of a blue pond under a blue sky. Various animals approach the bird, looking for a spot to rest, saying merely “pardon me” as they have a seat next to the bird. When each new addition interrupts his reverie and further crowds his breathing room, the bird gripes sarcastically. Eventually, a fox tries to tell him what precisely he’s sitting on, but the bird interrupts the fox and gives everyone some serious what-for. They scatter.
It’s then revealed he’s sitting on a crocodile, who in the next spread belches loudly. Remembering his manners, he mutters a “pardon me.” All that remains of the bird is one yellow feather, floating on the water in the book’s final spread.
Miyares’ horizontally oriented digital mixed media art includes hand-lettered text and playful shadows. Just before the first animal appears, asking for a spot on the dry patch, we see its large shadow loom over the yellow bird, as it flies through the air and starts to land. It’s a moment of menace, as if foreshadowing the bird’s eventual doom. Miyares knows how to crowd his spreads (all the animals on the same dry patch) without overwhelming the reader, and puts red to effective use when the yellow bird selfishly snaps, making all the animals flee. The pacing at the end is spot-on and lets the sense of foreboding take its sweet time.
It’s straight talk about the food chain—and common courtesy—for young readers, and it makes for a good, laugh-out-loud storytime choice.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.