During the work day, especially in these COVID-19 times, it’s important to engage in activities to reduce stress. One activity that’s really helped me these last few months is reading comics at lunch. A number of artists on social media channels tend to release their new comics around midday. That’s how I came across the funny and wholesome drawings of cartoonist and animator Liz Climo and her work Please Don’t Eat Me.
Climo’s portfolio is impressive, and it’s not only because she has worked on the animated series The Simpsons since 2003. She’s also a prolific illustrator on independent projects, including her popular book series about Rory the Dinosaur. Her other comics showcase hilarious but often relatable situations that animals find themselves in: misinterpreting what a friend says, trying to solve problems creatively, Zoom calls, and the list goes on. At the heart of these drawings is an overarching message of kindness and looking out for one another.
Recently I was excited to find Climo’s book Please Don’t Eat Me in the e-book collection of my local library. The book falls under the children’s section and is primarily geared towards parents and children reading together. However, readers of all ages will enjoy the budding and unlikely friendship between a small bunny and a hungry bear in this book. The story unfolds through the dialogue between the two characters, with the speech balloons.
The story is simple: the bear looks at the bunny as his next meal. The bunny is creative and quick thinking to suggest ordering a pizza. The large bear agrees, setting in motion a series of adventures for the two characters. The bunny wants to leave unscathed, but the bear thinks of more activities. There is a bit of suspense at one point, as the bowl and greens are being arranged in place. Will the bear eat the bunny at the end of the book?
There’s no prose to read, but the plot of Please Don’t Eat Me reminded me at times of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, wherein one scenario leads right to the next one. When the mouse gets a cookie, he wants a glass of milk. In Please Don’t Eat Me, when the bear finishes the entire pizza, he says “it just doesn’t feel like a meal without dessert.” And so the bunny and bear must share a milkshake topped with whipped cream.
Climo’s book also sticks out to me because of her illustrations. Her talents as an artist are remarkable in each page. The color palette consists mainly of light blues and greens. If you look closely, there’s a wonderful attention to shadow in the trees and with the shadows beneath the characters.
The opening pages show the path of the bunny’s burrowing across two hills. The sweeping brown arcs on the two green hills give off a welcome sense of energy and dynamism before the reader even meets the bunny. The broken ground has about three different shades of brown, with some curly lines to represent the dirt that was thrown up. That assembling of color added great depth and texture to the drawings.
I’m not sure how intentional it was on Climo’s part, but for the bunny’s burrows brought back my memories of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons: Bugs Bunny tunneling around and emerging after taking a wrong turn. In a similar way, the nameless bunny pops up at the worst possible moment and is thrust into a misadventure.
That being said, Please Don’t Eat Me is not a rehash of either If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or Looney Tunes. Additionally, it avoids falling clichés with its jokes. Climo weaves in some good and humorous lessons into the plot, namely, refrain from destroying a fellow critter’s property! There are many clever details drawn into each page, that are fun to discuss and laugh over.
I hope you get an opportunity to read Liz Climo’s lovely and heartwarming book Please Don’t Eat Me. Initial awkwardness by the bunny and bear fades in a cute way into a funny and solid friendship. If you love this book, be sure to check out Climo’s comics, books, and merchandise on her website. You may want to have your favorite pizza ordering app ready, too.