David Milgrim Biography
Writer and illustrator David Milgrim specializes in picture books for beginning readers. Among his popular titles are several about the character Otto the robot and his animal friends. "For children who are just beginning to read," Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist, "Milgrim's Otto books . . . offer the unbeatable combination of simple words and funny stories."
In the story Dog Brain, Sneakers the dog does not want to perform any tricks, like roll over or fetch. He pretends he does not understand what he is being asked to do. Likewise, when he is told to get off the furniture or stay out of the pool, Sneakers pretends not to understand and continues to do as he pleases. Even though the boy in the family has caught on to the dog's game, his parents refuse to believe that Sneakers is faking it. Stephanie Zvirin in Booklist found that "Milgrim's illustrations are outrageous" and the story's "dry humor and the popularity of the subject, dogs, ultimately prevail."
Milgrim creates a fantasy tale in Cows Can't Fly, the story of a boy who draws a picture of flying cows and is told by his father that it cannot be, that only birds can fly. But when the boy's drawing is blown by the wind into a cow pasture, the local cows are convinced that they can fly, and they begin to frolic in the air. "Appealing to the dreamer, the artist, and the anarchist in every child," Phelan noted, "this picture book will be great fun to read aloud."
In My Friend Lucky Milgrim presents a series of opposites narrated by a little boy who uses his dog, Lucky, to demonstrate them. These opposites are enunciated in extremely simple couplets such as "I love Lucky /Lucky loves me," and illustrated by spare black-line drawings on a field of white, with color reserved for the main characters themselves. In many cases, the demonstration of opposing concepts involves witty distinctions: for example, "Lucky's big" finds the dog looking down at a caterpillar, while "Lucky's small" shows him gazing up at a horse. For "Lucky's loud," the dog is barking while the narrator tries to do his homework, and though "Lucky's quiet" shows him still barking, now the narrator has on earmuffs.
"Though the interplay of text and illustration has more subtlety and wit than most books of opposites," wrote Carolyn Phelan in Booklist, "there's no mistaking the meanings of the paired images." Kay Bowes in School Library Journal called My Friend Lucky "a gentle concept book about opposites," and a reviewer in Publishers Weekly similarly described it as a "mild-mannered book." A critic in Kirkus Reviews characterized it both as "a splendid primer in the art of visual irony" and "a love story" of a boy and his dog. "A winner," the review concluded, "and not just for dog lovers."
Milgrim presents a holiday story in Thank You, Thanksgiving, the story of a little girl going to the store on Thanksgiving day to buy some whipped cream for the family's pumpkin pie. Along the way, she thanks all the things around her that she enjoys and appreciates, including her warm boots, the rabbits in the park, and the clouds above. The critic for Publishers Weekly called Thank You, Thanksgiving a "visually playful outing." "Milgrim helps young children recognize the blessings in their daily lives," Zvirin pointed out.
See Otto, Ride Otto Ride!, and Swing Otto Swing chronicle the adventures of a robot from another planet whose spaceship has run out of fuel, forcing him to land on Earth. Using a vocabulary of just twenty-one words, the first book follows the protagonist as he lands in a jungle and, after running afoul of a rhinoceros, makes friends with two cheerful monkeys. "Though the limited vocabulary imposes its own restraints," a commentator in Kirkus Reviews wrote of See Otto, "Milgrim uses visual humor with a touch of irony to craft a real story with enough action to appeal to new readers."
In Ride Otto Ride! the robot goes for a ride on Peanut the Elephant's back, but as more and more animal friends pile on, Peanut grows tired and cannot walk anymore. So Otto and the others build a wagon for Peanut and pull him to the watering hole where everyone can go for a swim. Nancy A. Gifford, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, explained that, "flowing much like a 'Dick and Jane' primer with added humor, this tale will appeal to fledgling readers." Reviewing the first two works in Booklist, Phelan described the "Otto" series "an appealing option for children just beginning to read and feeling as hopeful and adventurous as Otto."
In Swing Otto Swing Otto attempts to swing through the trees on jungle vines, just like his monkey friends, Flip and Flop, can. However, the metallic and far-more-weighty Otto keeps falling. Only when he builds himself a hanging vine equipped with a seat can Otto swing in the air with his friends. Martha V. Parravano in Horn Book found that the story "contains humor, suspense, and a satisfying narrative arc." According to the critic for Kirkus Reviews, "Milgrim provides clean illustrations, full of movement and with wildly varying perspectives that render words almost unnecessary to the understanding of the narrative."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 1, 1996, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Dog Brain, p. 144; November 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Here in Space, p. 467; August, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Cows Can't Fly, p. 2015; December 1, 1999, John Peters, review of Patrick's Dinosaur's on the Internet, p. 709; April 15, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of My Friend Lucky, p. 1408; September 15, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Ride Otto Ride!, p. 241; February 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of See Pip Point, p. 1001; September 1, 2003, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Thank You, Thanksgiving, p. 135; July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Swing Otto Swing!, p. 1852.
Canadian Review of Materials, January 2, 2004, Dave Jenkinson, review of Little Lamb's Christmas.
Horn Book, May-June, 2004, Martha V. Parravano, review of Swing Otto Swing!, p. 334; November-December, 2004, review of See Santa Nap, p. 662; January-February, 2005, review of Swing Otto Swing!, p. 14.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2001, review of My Friend Lucky, p. 1553; August 1, 2002, review of See Otto, p. 1138; February 1, 2003, review of See Pip Point, p. 236; April 15, 2004, review of Swing Otto Swing!, p. 398; November 1, 2004, review of See Santa Nap, p. 1052.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1996, review of Dog Brain, p. 65; May 25, 1998, review of Cows Can't Fly, p. 89; September 6, 1999, review of Patrick's Dinosaur's on the Internet, p. 102; December 10, 2001, review of My Friend Lucky, p. 68; September 22, 2003, review of Thank You, Thanksgiving, p. 65.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, November, 2004, Kimberly Hutmacher, review of Thank You, Thanksgiving.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 2003, Regan McMahon, review of Thank You, Thanksgiving, p. M6.
School Library Journal, February, 2002, Kay Bowes, review of My Friend Lucky, p. 108; March, 2003, Nancy A. Gifford, review of Ride Otto Ride!, p. 199; September, 2003, Janet M. Bair, review of Thank You, Thanksgiving, p. 185; July, 2004, Bethany L. W. Hankinson, review of Swing Otto Swing!, p. 83.
Virginian Pilot, November 2, 2004, Krys Stefansky, Swing Otto Swing!, p. E3.
David Milgrim Web site, http://www.davidmilgrim.com (January 22, 2005).*
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