Book Review: Oh Dear, Geoffrey!

Oh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O’Neil is a stunning piece of art.

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Just look at this cover. How could you not buy it? How could you not fall in love? If you’re worried that you’re just infatuated, I dare you to open it up and read the story, take in the tremendous artwork, and then you will realize: it’s love.

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I picked it up when Kingsley was just a couple of months old while shopping for some books for school. The stunning use of negative space, bold use of colours and textures, and the depth of artwork was truly what grabbed me. My inner artist was SCREAMING in excitement. This felt fresh and vibrant. I had to have it.

Kingsley, it seems, felt the same.

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At such a young age, he couldn’t really move around, but he could definitely look around. Not many books commanded his attention quite like this one. He was thrilled to see the pictures and giggled when I would recite the chorus: Oh Dear, Geoffrey!Unknown

This is the book I first started to read in true “read aloud” fashion. You see, my wife and I split up our weekends: I get up early on one of the days while she sleeps in (“sleeps in” is a relative idea; 7am instead of 6am is sleeping in!), and then we switch. I usually use this time to read to him, even now that he is a bit over a year. Back then, I would place him in his bouncer and he would stare at the book as I read it. If he was crying, it always stopped him. Gemma O’Neil’s words and artwork saved my sanity more mornings than I can count!

Now that he is a little older, he still loves to interact with the book. He points at the meerkats, birds and monkeys the most. We count them find ways of incorporating math, even though he is too young to grasp concepts. It’s crucial to make this part of his vocabulary and culture, so we do it anyway. There is a spread that says how Geoffrey has so many friends now, he can’t even count them. The page shows off a number of animals, so I model counting them and pointing at each one, and then adding up the birds and the monkeys, and so on. If I was teaching Gr. 1 this year, I would have this in my classroom.

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It is a quick read, with only a line or so on every spread. (For those non-writer/artists of picture books, you may be wondering what I mean: a spread is when a piece of art spreads across two pages. This book is mostly made up of these spreads.) The text is even quirky and curls around the artwork, takes on larger, more bold fonts, and truly engages the reader with the words. It is impossible to read this book in a monotone fashion.

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LOOK AT THIS ART! This is true ART! It could be framed and found in any home and you’d never know it was from a kid’s book, yet it is loose and fun and vibrant. It’s the perfect mix. I’m drooling.

By the end of the book, you’ll fall in love with clumsy Geoffrey and you’ll drop your jaw at the final illustration. It is stunning.

If you only have money for one book this month, make it THIS one. You will NOT regret it.

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Discovering the books in his library. “Oh Dear, Geoffrey” is NOT in this library – it is kept safe in my personal reference library, but brought out very regularly for reading and exploring!

I give this book a totally edible rating, according to the Creative Daddy rating. If I was in the business of giving out awards, I would also award it with the “Saved My Sanity Without Annoying Me Award”.

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See more of Gemma on her website, including process pictures of her picture book dummies (that’s what we call our outlines and storyboards in the story making world): http://gemmaoneill.co.uk

Also check out her Facebook page.

Creative Daddy Rating System:

Edible: It’s so good we want to eat it!

Viewable: It’s good, but we don’t feel the forever-connection to it.

Oncer: We’ll read it once, maybe twice, but it just wasn’t for us.

Meh: Move on.

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