Monday, March 28, 2011

Chalk the Block

Add Humor to Your Neighborhood
By Michael Sherman
Klutz, 2011
$12.99, ages 6 and up, 40 pages.

Concrete got the blahs around your block?

Grab some chalk and turn all that wear and tear to your comic advantage.

In this fun twist on an old pastime, Sherman inspires kids to turn ugly concrete into a crack up with a few strokes of chalk.

"Release your inner smart aleck," he encourages before taking readers through a basic how-to and a slew of his own ideas.

The book comes with four fat pieces of chalk and pictures of cracks, walls, steps, rocks even drains dressed up silly.

There's even a section on how to take hopscotch up a notch (literally up a wall) and transform blacktop into track for tricycle test driving.

With sticks of chalk, a run-down slab of concrete can go from drab to happy to just plain funny:

A split in the sidewalk becomes a perch for birds that never fly away or the gaping mouth of a monster ready to snag the feet that cross it.

The more broken, cracked or tilted the pavement, the better.

In one picture, hairline cracks become lightening bolts crashing down from a cloud. In another, a sewing needle drawn from chalk stitches up a big crack in a driveway that's split in two.

And don't forget to put a choo choo train on that mountainous crack crossing the basketball court.

You start to see how a chalk drawer could feel like they owe every crack a chance to be more than a flaw at their feet.

And cracks are just the beginning. Anywhere there's hardtop, there are bound to be imperfections, scattered debris, an inkling of something cool.

Pebbles on the sidewalk become the knobs of a chalk-drawn Etch-a-Sketch, the body of dangling spider or the wheels of cars backed up on sidewalk seams.

Part of the fun is imagining what effect your drawing will have on strangers passing by. Will they notice? If they do, will they grin to themselves?

(Fingers crossed) Burst into giggles?

Here are a few that made me chuckle when I saw them on the page.

A boulder with a chalked-in scowl growls at a crazed crowd of pebbles as they flee across the sidewalk yelling, "It's Rockzilla!"

A joke appears on one side of an old building corner, then a punchline on the other, and later, utility words on a sidewalk become part of a random greeting:

After the word "GAS" stamped on a small manhole cover, Sherman writes in "what?" and below that adds, "I like you!" 

There's excitement in seeing what you can get people to do.

If you scribble chalk over a slab of sidewalk with the warning "SIDEWALK CLOSED!! DUE TO SEVERE CHALK DAMAGE," will anyone go around it?

What makes this book worth its weight in, well, chalk is the idea behind it:  with a little nudge, kids can imagine their world in a whole new way.

A driveway with seams, a wall with mortar, even a park bench is more than a drawing space. It's a picture that's begun and it's up to you to finish it.

The minute our boys flipped through this book they couldn't wait to go onto our back patio and chalk it up silly.

Within an hour, a blue-faced giant appeared next to a wooden path that crosses from the patio over a shrub bed.

Off to the side, a warning read, "Careful, there's a troll under the bridge."

A turtle with a rock shell began inching his way across the slabs and an evil face appeared below our patio table with the words, "I'm watching you."

But alas, chalk humor isn't like spray paint: laughs come and at the sky's whims, they go.

This morning a light snow washed the patio clean except for that turtle shell.

Oh well. As the editors of Klutz say, "Like all the best humor, it's a 'you had to be there' kind of thing."

No comments:

Post a Comment