cover image Oh Dear, Geoffrey!

Oh Dear, Geoffrey!

Gemma O’Neill. Candlewick/Templar, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6659-0

An ungainly giraffe stars in U.K.-based author/artist O’Neill’s first children’s book, and her heavily splattered and speckled gouache-and-collage illustrations help make Geoffrey’s every pratfall a real event. The book’s title is also its exasperated refrain, and it’s deployed whenever Geoffrey does a full body-plant in the dirt (“His legs are wibbly-wobbly... and his knees are bendy-buckly,” says the narrator by way of explanation) or makes a spread-eagled splash in the middle of the watering hole. Geoffrey is only trying to be friendly, and he eventually learns that he’s better off sticking with treetop-dwelling monkeys and birds than bending down to attempt to hobnob with meerkats and flamingoes. There’s a fussy primness to the narration that can feel at odds with the story’s slapstick moments, but O’Neill’s illustrations do a marvelous job of bringing both Geoffrey and his dusty savannah habitat to life, whether through the dust clouds that erupt as Geoffrey becomes entangled with a herd of elephants; the passel of monkeys clinging playfully to his limbs, neck, and tail; or the resplendently starry sky they gaze into before falling asleep. Ages 3–7. [em](May) [/em]