Book Review: George Shrinks by William Joyce

I love the illustrations of William Joyce like other parents love the words of Dr. Seuss. (See my earlier gush about Dinosaur Bob for background on Joyce.)

George Shrinks is a gorgeous board book and has an assured spot under our Christmas tree for Little Miss.

Cover of George Shrinks board book. George stands on his kitchen table with a giant spoon saddled over his shoulders with giant-sized objects next to him on the table as his baby brother's giant head peeks above the tabletopIts story is simple. George dreams he is small, waking up to find his mother and father are gone and have left him a list of chores to do. On each page of the book is a portion of the note, such as "please make your bed," "take out the garbage," "feed the fish," and so forth.

Accordingly, each page imaginatively depicts George fulfilling his parents wishes. The drawings remind me of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes fantasy adventures. They are such nice flights of fancy that I’d like to scan, print and frame many of the pages for display in our house (because Joyce doesn’t currently sell prints, except for some older, pricey ones at Storyopolis). But I wouldn’t make my own prints, because, you know, that’s illegal.

Anyhow, while Calvin and Hobbes appeals to adults, George Shrinks also appeals to kids as George lives a new adventure on each page.

You might say it’s like the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie, except it was first published several years before the movie was produced, and Joyce doesn’t rely on fear to tell his story. George is in command of the situations caused by his short stature, and always has fun.

For example, taking a bath is depicted with George smiling as he stands on the bow of a ship in the choppy waters of his bath tub, firing a toilet plunger from a cannon, aimed squarely at a rubber duck floating his way.

Like any good toddler book, the words are a starting point. The illustrations tell their own story. George’s adventures come alive in your describing the pictures and pointing out all of the details to your child. So it doesn’t hurt that the drawings are huge; the book is four times larger than the average board book at 10.5 by 9 inches.

Now, finding this book online may be tricky. There are multiple versions of George Shrinks in the marketplace – board book, hard cover and soft cover. The board book version is spanking new, printed around October 2005 and I bought it at Costco in November for a wickedly cheap $8. Its cover (shown above) is the same one used in a hardcover book printed in 2000. Both have the same ISBN number (0-06-023070-3). However, my board book has a second, unique ISBN number (0-06-085183-X) which Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble do not recognize at this moment. There is also a different, smaller board book published in 1998 with different cover art. (Did you know you can search for books by ISBN at Amazon and B&N?) 

My advice: buy George Shrinks from Costco to get the larger, newer board book. If you’re reading this months later, search for a copy online (ISBN: 0-06-085183-X) which has the newer cover art (pictured above), but be careful you are not buying the hardcover version.

The lowdown on ISBN numbers comes via Trish, who has great patience in answering the questions I send to William Joyce.

George Shrinks was also turned into a PBS TV series for ages 5 to 10. The show is no longer produced, but many stations still air the show because they have about 50 hour-long episodes in their library.

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