This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 20.1.
The vibrant and energetic images of Adam Stower’s Slam! will engage the adult and child reader alike. The visual narrative, though, slips quickly into what appears to be an imitation of (rather than homage to) Mike McClintock’s classic Stop That Ball! (1959). McClintock’s story of cause and effect has been a stalwart of picture book enjoyment for generations of readers, and Slam! might be seen as validating the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Where McClintock provides a firm combination of image with narrative in poetic form, though, Stower relies exclusively on his drawings to create narrative movement. Where McClintock’s allusion to cause and effect is implicit, Stower explicitly titles his story a “Tale of Consequences,” calling attention to the lesson the child is to take away. In both cases, the child remains oblivious to the effect his action has had. In different ways, both McClintock’s rhyme and Stower’s illustrations effectively accentuate the child reader’s enjoyment of a Rube Goldberg narrative pattern.
Stower’s drawings are magnificent. The intricacy of detail, the balance of colour, the expressions on people and animals’ faces… Stower is unquestionably adept in Michael Marchenko’s style of illustration. The onomatopœia of the words on the page carries forward the impact of the boy’s slamming of the door, each page presenting new sounds accompanied by the chaotic motion of the images. Child readers will love to tease meaning out of the complex images, engaging in a Where’s Waldo? hunt for the boy’s red ball. This is not a book to be read by an adult to a child, so much as to be enjoyed by both together. While the narrative, such as it is, is far from unique, it is sufficient as a vehicle for Stower’s fabulous artwork.