Such is the case with Imogene's Antlers. I read it to my kids and thought, Oh, how I would have loved this! It might have even ranked right up there with The Baby Blue Cat and the Whole Batch of Cookies and The Big Red Pajama Wagon (which, incidentally, was not from my generation but was much loved anyway). I guess I'll never know the legacy it might have left.
There are some picture books that are so fantastical, they just seem weird. There are others where the whole amazing story turns out, disappointingly, just to be a dream. This book is neither of those. It's more amusing and funny than disturbing. And by all accounts, it seems to be true (as true as fiction gets, that is). And I love that about it. For just a few minutes, we can suspend our disbelief without needing any explanations when it's all over. Imogene grew antlers. We don't know why, but she did. Isn't that crazy?
I love Imogene's attitude through the whole ordeal: the doctor is examining her, and she is happily licking a lollipop; the principal is glaring at her, and she is drinking a glass of milk; the maid is using the antlers as a drying rack, and she is reading a book. She just takes the whole day in stride, enjoying it and making the most of her circumstances.
The illustrations are wild and zany. David Small has illustrated some of our other favorites, including One Cool Friend and Elsie's Bird, but this is one of the few books where he wrote the text too. It's a shame he hasn't authored more of his own books because, really, he conveys exactly what he needs to in simple sentences without getting bogged down in a lot of unnecessary words. Plus, the text fits the illustrations brilliantly.
As a final parting word, can I also mention how much I love the name Imogene for a children's book? I don't think I'd ever use it for my own daughter, but for a girl with antlers growing out of her head? So much more fitting than the overused Chloes and Emilys.