Brief Thief – Perfect Picture Book Friday

7 Apr

Made it through Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo), the picture book marathon of reading and studying various picture book attributes, so now it’s time to recommend perhaps a book or two from my reading that were not on the prescribed reading list.

While I was combing the stacks of the San Francisco Public Library’s children’s picture book section, one book beckoned me from the top of a display. Librarians are so adept at fostering temptation. Who could resist this cover? 

The story starts innocently enough with Leon the lizard enjoying his breakfast, a tasty fly:

Then he does what every other lizard does after filling his belly, suns himself on a big rock. Granted, this lizard is a little more civilized than most what with his use of utensils for dining and a beach chair for sunning.

On page three, things take a—ah—darker turn:


Leon, the lizard has to go poo. Hmmm. What would you expect to happen, considering what we already know about Leon?

Yes, he uses toilet paper. But—oh, no! The roll is empty! What’s a fastidious lizard to do?

The cover provides a hint.

From here on, all bets are off. Leon finds something else to use, something that comes back to haunt him in the voice of his conscience. But is it just his conscience? One must read the story to find out.

Folks, this book’s unusual premise and twist of an ending reminds me of something that the dynamic duo of Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen would dream up and pull off with aplomb. It’s a story of double mistaken identity as it’s applied to characters and objects. Something that kids will LOVE. I will say no more lest I spill the beans.

Originally written in French by Michaël Escoffier and published in 2009, this 2013 edition is translated into English by Kris Di Giacomo, the book’s illustrator. 

Although there are no illustrator notes, the images appear to be a marvelous mixture of pencil, ink, watercolor, markers, and a couple snippets of newspaper.

Find it at your bookstore, the library, or on Youtube (if you can’t find it anywhere else). If you find a hard copy, you’ll discover that the pages are as thick as card stock, a benefit for a book that is destined to be read many times over.

TITLE: Brief Thief

Author: Michaël Escoffier

Illustrator/translator: Kris Di Giacomo

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Press

Year: 2013

Themes: listening to your conscience, not messing with things that are not yours to mess with, mistaken identity/assumptions, lateral thinking

Target age group: pre-K through 2nd grade


20 Responses to “Brief Thief – Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. Harriet Heydemann April 7, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    This book is perfect for the children at the clinic where I volunteer. (I’ll use them as my excuse. The suspense is too much for me.)

  2. Stacy S. Jensen April 7, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    This is a fun one!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 7, 2017 at 10:33 am #

      Yes! I loved how it just reached out and grabbed me. I was minding my own business, looking for books on the ReFoReMo list, oblivious to all else, when suddenly….

  3. Lady Fancifull April 7, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    I think you might have slightly limited the age range of the target audience. I am WELL past 2nd grade (its the illustrations, isn’t it) Leon looks perfectly amicable, and a lizard one would be happy to invite for afternoon tea. Except I might never be able to view currants in my scones with quite the same equanimity again – COULD one currant be a fly, not a currant at all………..

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 7, 2017 at 10:36 am #

      Fly or currant? Protein or fruit? One lump or two? Oh, the possibilities are endless…Yes, the illustrations are a show-stopper.

  4. Margarita April 7, 2017 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks, Jilanne! I think I might know a couple of seven-year-olds who’d love this! 😉 xoxoM

  5. heylookawriterfellow April 7, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    I am intrigued. (And always up for a little poop humor.)

  6. Kate Johnston April 8, 2017 at 4:19 am #

    That cover is priceless!

  7. Britt Skrabanek April 9, 2017 at 9:34 am #

    Too funny! Haven’t seen a lizard go poo before, but I did try to grab one by its tail when I was a kid and it came off. I was freaking horrified. My dad never stopped laughing at me, which made it worse. Eventually after he dried his eyes, he assured me the tail disappearing act was normal.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 9, 2017 at 10:00 am #

      HA! A confirmed tail-grabber! So here’s the logical follow-on question: Have you ever been peed on by a toad?

  8. Catherine Johnson April 10, 2017 at 9:18 am #

    Sounds hilarious!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 10, 2017 at 9:52 am #

      Yes, and also surprising. The author pulled off quite a clever ending.

  9. Diane Tulloch April 13, 2017 at 2:22 am #

    Well the cover certainly gets anyone’s attention, I guess. I laughed and wondered what this was all about. Great review and illustrations. Kids will certainly love this.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann April 13, 2017 at 11:16 am #

      It certainly caught my attention. Even my 13-year-old son loved it and found it surprising.

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