Have You Seen Gordon?
Adam Jay Epstein, illus. by Ruth Chan. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7736-0
It opens like any seek-and-find-book: as elaborately detailed, laugh-out-loud spreads by Chan (The Alpactory) show anthropomorphized animals of a variety of species enjoying the beach, the city, and so on, Epstein’s (the Snared series) chirpy narrator insists that readers spot an eager-eyed purple tapir named Gordon. But Gordon quickly grows disenchanted with the Where’s Waldo–style premise—he foils the search by donning an easily spotted orange shirt and propeller hat, then announces from a parade float that he’s done altogether: “I’m proud of who I am. From now on, I want to stand out.” The narrator also rankles the next protagonist pick, a shy blue rhino called Jane who flees each spread. As the omniscient voice blows through personal boundaries, Gordon steps up and firmly speaks truth to narrator power: “Instead of you picking who to find, maybe you should ask who wants to be found.” It’s a culturally relevant meta-spoof that raises big questions about authority and autonomy, allyship and consent. (Plenty of animals do want to be found—if asked first.) It also succeeds wholly in the seek-and-find genre; while readers catch their breath from the high-energy character wrangling, they can pore over a wonderfully wide-ranging supply of visual jokes (e.g. poop as fine art) en route to the book’s sweetly affirming end. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/2021