Wesley is a nonconformist suffering rejection from classmates who torment him for his weird views (such as thinking professional football stupid and disliking pizza) until he puts his school lessons to use and founds his own civilization-Weslandia. Beginning with the discovery of a new staple crop that Wesley christens "swist," the idea works superbly, its flowering caught equally well in text and illustrations that seamlessly flow together from beginning to end. Double-page spreads explode with color barely contained within the book. Vegetation, insects, and wild creatures abound as Wesley utilizes flower, fruit, rind, tuber, and leaf to create and maintain his new home. A language and counting system evolve to support his innovations; it's all here and it all fits. Combining the allure of fantasy and science fiction with the dismissal of socially acceptable norms creates a true paradise for today's pre-teen and terrific fodder for social studies classes. At another level, the story works for younger children, who will be drawn to the art and appreciate Wesley's inventiveness, indomitable spirit, and ultimate triumph.
This fantastical picture book, like its hero, is bursting at the seams with creativity. Wesley's imagination sets him apart; not only does he sport purple sneakers and glasses, he thinks football is stupid and refuses to shave half his head like all the other boys. "He sticks out," says his mother. "Like a nose," bemoans his father. Ironically, a banal aside from his father gives Wesley an idea for a summer project: he establishes a new civilization in his own backyard, eventually attracting his former tormentors and befriending them. Fleischman (Joyful Noise) and Hawkes (My Little Sister Ate One Hare) offer a vigorous shot in the arm to nonconformists everywhere. A droll, deadpan text describes how Wesley prepares the soil for a seemingly magical influx of seedlings. Unable to identify the new staple crop, Wesley names it "swist," gathers food from its fruit and tubers, weaves clothing from its fibers and fashions suntan lotion and mosquito repellent from the oil of its seeds (which, in a Tom Sawyeresque business maneuver, he allows his now-curious foes to grind--and then he sells the product to them). In vibrant, puckish acrylic paintings, Hawkes captures the entrepreneurial essence of Wesley. From the makeshift shield that protects him from garbage-throwing classmates to his cluttered bedroom overflowing with inventions and science projects to the giant red-flowering jungle he cultivates, Wesley's universe clearly exists on a slightly parallel plane. Yet Hawkes introduces the outlandish elements so naturally that they seem organic. For instance, an ingenious conception of Wesley's alternative to "traditional sports" shows a lacrosse-like game with a unique scoring feature. And a subtle visual metaphor takes shape in an aerial shot of a cookie-cutter neighborhood in which Wesley's wildly fertile backyard sticks out "like a nose." It's difficult to imagine a better pairing than Fleischman and Hawkes to bring this one-of-a-kind kid--and his universe--so vividly to life. And readers will relish the tongue-in-cheek ending in which Wesley's ex-rivals conform to the nonconformist. Ages 4-9. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A young nonconformist invents a self-sufficient civilization in his suburban backyard. "Words and images fluidly play off one another as Wesley creates a language for his new produce and the crop erupts into a lush tropical landscape," wrote PW in our Best Books citation. Ages 4-9. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
K-Gr 4-Young Wesley, who marches to a different drummer, decides to create his own civilization. Glowing acrylics highlight the cookie-cutter conformity of his neighborhood and the extraordinary and exotic details of his new and flourishing domain. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
K-Gr 4Wesley marches to a different drummer. Looking for the perfect summer project, this social outcast remembers reading that every culture has a staple food crop. He decides to plant some seeds in his suburban backyard. In Robinson Crusoe fashion, he finds uses for each part of the unique and unusual plant that emerges (he calls it swist, from the sound its leaves make). By the time school starts again, he has created an entire civilization, including a language, complex games, a counting system, and a sundialall based on the plant. In a very satisfying turn of events, the mohawk-topped kids seen tormenting Wesley in the opening scene march behind their fearless leader, outfitted in Weslandic togs, at the conclusion. Hawkess highly tactile acrylic interpretations of Fleischmans ideas are detailed and clever, his palette brimming with tropical tones. His caricatures of the myopic protagonist, the nosy neighbor, and Wess dim-witted parents are quirky and fresh. The spread of Wesley, surrounded by a jungle of lush red flowers, roasting the tubers and drinking the nectar from his own squeezing device, is any kids idea of paradise. From the personal hieroglyphs on the endpapers to the lacrosse-like game played on pogo sticks, ideas present themselves, ready to pollinate fertile young imaginations. While this book offers a highly inventive approach to any number of topicsbullies, anthropology, individuality, gardening, summer vacationdont wait for a reason to share it.Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Wearing purple sneakers and a bemused expression, Wesley knows he's an outcast: he dislikes pizza, soda, and football, and fleeing his tormentors is "the only sport he was good at." When he learns that each civilization has its own staple food crop, he takes as his summer project turning over a plot of ground in the back yard, and seeds brought by the wind begin to grow. Wesley can't find the plants in any book, but the fruit and the juice are delicious, as are the tubers on the roots. He makes a hat from the bark and a robe from the inner fibers, and sells the seed oil to his former enemies as a suntan lotion/mosquito repellent. It isn't long before he's moved out to the yard, and invents an alphabet and a whole raft of sports for the place he calls Weslandia. In sumptuously detailed illustrations, Hawkes has vividly imagined Fleischman's puckish text, capturing both the blandness of Wesley's suburban surroundings and then the fabulous encroachment of the rainforest-like vegetation of his green and growing place. Children will be swept up in Wesley's vision, and have a fine time visiting Weslandia. An alphabet appears on the endpapers. (Picture book. 5-9)
Wesley is a nonconformist suffering rejection from classmates . . . until he puts his school lessons to use and founds his own civilization—Weslandia . . . Combining the allure of fantasy and science fiction with the dismissal of socially acceptable norms creates a true paradise for today's pre-teen and terrific fodder for social studies classes. At another level, the story works for younger children, who will be drawn to the art and appreciate Wesley's inventiveness, idominitable spirit, and ultimate triumph.
—The Horn Book (starred review) This fantastical picture book, like its hero, is bursting at the seams with creativity . . . a vigorous shot in the arm to nonconformists everywhere . . . It's difficult to imagine a better pairing than Fleischman and Hawkes to bring this one of a kind kid—and his universe—so vividly to life. —Publishers Weekly (starred review)