Picture Book Review: Sneaky Weasel by Hannah Shaw

sneakyweaselWeasel is a shifty-eyed cad who enjoys practical jokes, laughing at the expense of others, and generally causing mischief with whomever he encounters.  So, when the wealthy weasel decides to throw a party in order to boast about his “incredible castle, fast car and huge swimming pool” (with a postscript warning his guests to beware of hungry crocodiles in his moat), he can’t understand why none of his friends show up.

As Weasel accosts each of his “friends” to demand an explanation, he is reminded about all the terrible pranks and mean gags he has perpetrated on poor Rabbit, Rat, Hedgehog, and Shrew.

Using a combination of pen, ink, printmaking techniques and Photoshopping, Shaw’s illustrations grab the reader from the endpapers (featuring newspaper ads that account for Weasel’s great wealth: mail order practical jokes, self-help books, and disreputable businesses) through Weasel’s victorian-inspired home, to the more organic environments of Hedgehog and Shrew. Shaw uses several sepia-like colors and frames to indicate flashbacks alongside the present action.  This visual back-and-forth, combined with an almost fish-eye lens perspective and a busy composition give the visual narrative a sense of constant movement.  Children will want to go back to study each page after the first reading.

Without seeming didactic, Shaw brings Sneaky Weasel to a satisfying ending.  He learns a good lesson, struggles but eventually manages a heartfelt apology, and throws a better party.  In a twist that keeps the ending from being predictable, Sneaky Weasel shows that his old joke-playing ways are just too hard to give up completely.  I suspect a sequel.

Pair it with Grumpy Bird and I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean for a fun storytime about characters with major ‘tude.


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