Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri is very dull. It’s also very funny.
Meet the Dullards — they are a family who loves things dull and boring. But, the Dullard’s three children, Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud are straying from their parent’s quest for all things blah. Sara Pennypacker has written the story beautifully, but what she’s also done brilliantly is left tons of room for Daniel Salmieri to work his magic and tell the other part of the story. Which is often in this case, the delivery of a visual punch line.
This is not easy to do. How to draw boring and convey emotion? To make something dull, but make it hilarious? Here are some of the really smart ways that Daniel Salmieri aced this formidable task.
He used every bit of book to tell us more. On the cover are the Dullards, all staring as if hypnotized straight ahead and a bit slightly off to the right. But Little Dud’s eyes look to the right hand side of the cover as he spies a circus dog. This is just he jacket— and we already have some idea of who these people are and what might go on inside the book.
The title page shows three framed pictures of the kids. One is of newborns in the hospital. Babies are crying and wiggling, except for one… Little Dud is frozen still. A dance recital shows happy, twirling ballerinas, except… So you get the picture (pun intended)? No words yet, no story at all and yet Daniel Salmieri has already “shown” us who these kids are.
The opening spread presents the horrified parents and the copy reads,
“One day, Mr. and Mrs. Dullard received quite a nasty surprise.”
It’s the accompanying artwork that shows the three children reading books about being circus entertainers. This is what makes a terrific picture book team— the author allowing the illustrator to tell the joke. It also brings us in as the reader. We feel we ‘see’ a secret and think, ‘ahhhh I get it’.
The book continues as the parents struggle to reign in their curious children. The humor is deadpan and sophisticated and appeals both to child readers, as well as to the adult reading the book.
Obviously the palette is… dull, but he’s such a clever illustrator that he has labeled the moving boxes, “Blank CD’s”, “A water bottle”, “Unadorned lamp”, etc. Again, using every artistic opportunity to show us more about this family.
On the back of the jacket is an opened moving box labeled, “interesting items”. And in it is a game, “Monotony”, and a book titled, “Cooking without Flavor.”
Printed end pages? No, that would be fancy. This book has plain gray.
I really enjoyed this quirky, funny book and totally appreciate all the extra boring dullness that Daniel Salmieri brought to the plate!
Annnnnnnd—- We had a bit of a WordPress glitch on Friday and our comments section was not working. It’s fixed now, and I encourage you to pop back and revisit/comment to Pat Zietlow Miller’s fantastic post.