July 7, 2006

DT Bizarre Book Contest: The Steamroller


Title: The Steamroller
Text: Margaret Wise Brown (published in 1974, 22 years after her
death - the copyright is in her sister's name, Roberta Rauch)
Illustrations: Evaline Ness [see sample pages]
Reviewed by: Eric

This book (and the fact that it's described on the cover as a "fantasy") just proves my earlier point that Margaret Wise Brown was one weird lady. No cute little bunnies here. Just the story of a girl who receives an actual steamroller for Christmas, hops on for a ride, then is unable to stem the carnage that ensues when she can't figure out how to stop the damn thing. Like, animals and people actually get run over (in a very wry and entertaining way, I must admit - but NOT from a young kid's p.o.v.). Innocent victims include: A pig, chicken, police officer, trolley car, favorite teacher, mean aunt. Finally, as she's about to inadvertently massacre a gaggle of her best friends, she manages to steer the steamroller into a ravine as she jumps off.

Here's the text of the first "flattening":

"Look out old Pig," said Daisy. "Get out of my way or I'll squash you flat." But the old pig didn't get out of the way. And the steamroller ran right over it and squashed the old pig flat on the road.

When I first read this in a kid's book, by Margaret Wise Brown, it was like that shock when the first Heather bit it after drinking a Drano cocktail Christian Slater concocted. An "aha" moment when you realize something's going to be WAY darker than you imagined.

Of course, there is a bit of a happy ending (or cop-out - take your pick). When Daisy reports her misadventures to her parents, they inform her that her other present is a giant steamshovel, which she promptly uses to scoop up all the flattened creatures out of their shadows, as they pop instantly back to life. Then she gives her friends rides on the steamshovel, which I guess is easier to operate than the steamroller?!

WTF, Margaret Wise Brown??

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