The Creature of Habit is novelist Jennifer E. Smith‘s first picture book. It is illustrated by Leo Espinosa. It was pointed out to me by a very favorite bookstore owner. I was Christmas shopping on Small Business Saturday in November without any real list of what I wanted to buy or for whom. Which is always dangerous, for me in a bookstore. I leafed through it quickly, with my arms full of other books to purchase (most for me) and was smitten with the illustrations. The title also spoke to me as (full disclosure) a creature of habit myself. I said yes! I’ll take this one, too. Thinking maybe it will be a Christmas present for my granddaughter or…
I didn’t actually read it front to back till I got home. When I did, I would chuckle and kept thinking to myself, ‘this is so totally me.’ It is the story of a very large Creature with very big teeth, eyes, and feet that lives on an island called Habit. His life was consistent and constant. His day started with a breakfast of pineapples and bananas, followed up with salutations to the fishes, and a treasure hunt for the very best shells. He greeted the fauna the geology and the crustaceans along his way. And at dinner time, he dined on more pineapples and bananas. Life was good. There was a comfort in a routine.
…until a very small creature on a very small boat with very small teeth, eyes, and feet arrives on the island of Habit. The very big creature was thrilled to have a visitor and shared his daily regime with him. They enjoy the same meals and activities on the same timeline that the big creature did every day.
With a title like Creature of Habit, there is going to be some predictability. There is a built in conflict just waiting to happen. You can probably guess the Creature of Habit is going to have his regular schedule disrupted and it is going to be a shock to him. And it is. The very big Creature is naturally aghast at the very small creature’s meandering from the established routine. How it works itself out I’ll leave to your reading. I was very satisfied.
Espinosa’s art in this book is delightful! Truly! With the bookstore owner’s recommendation and briefly flipping through the book at the store, I knew I should own it. Even if the story sucked (it doesn’t!!!) the illustrations were worth the purchase. They jumped out and smacked me and said, “BUY THIS BOOK!” Big moving pictures and lots of vignettes showcase the Island of Habit, A place I would love to visit (especially in the sufferings of this winter.) I was going to call the characters ‘orbs’ but the flatness of the illustrations make them more circles than orbs. They are drawn with just enough details to be expressive, emotive, engaging, and their personalities shine through. I don’t know how to describe the palette other than bright and fun. Flat saturated colors along with interesting textures and shapes make for a wonderful, happy world. The illustrations were rendered in Photoshop.
This book is a song to friendship, to differences, the fear of change and change. And to stepping up and trying and accepting new things. I adore this book.