Joe Hayes, illustrated by Antonio Castro L.
The Lovesick Skunk
Cinco Puntos Press, 2010.
In Joe Hayes’ The Lovesick Skunk, the award-winning storyteller and prolific author of children’s books recounts his own childhood love of a pair of black high-top sneakers with a white stripe. Even when they wear out and his mother buys him an identical new pair, the kid keeps on wearing his stinky old shoes.
That is, until he and a pal camp out one night in the desert, and a little skunk turns up feeling pretty much the same way about the shoes that the boy Joe feels. She “started making the sweetest little purring sound–almost like a kitten–and began snuggling and cuddling up with my sneakers.” All is well until the little skunk’s big “boyfriend” arrives on the scene, sniffs out what is happening, and takes umbrage at his rival by spraying the shoes. Finally even Joe can’t stand his shoes any more. His friend has to run back home through the desert night to bring Joe his new sneakers.
It’s a simple story, but Hayes is a master of the storyteller’s sense of timing, and each page will leave young readers eager for the next juicy bit of action. Hayes’ language, too, will appeal. To throw away a trusty old pair of shoes, he explains on the back cover, “might take something as scary as a run-in with the south end of a crazy skunk that’s headed north. Did I say crazy? That skunk wasn’t crazy; she was in love–and she had it bad. She was lovesick. That’s even scarier!”
Illustrations by Antonio Castro L. are vivid to the point of caricature and add an outrageous touch to the pleasures of the story. The text is printed in an easy-to-read large serif font. The garish lime-yellow background of the text pages may date the book quickly but it does suggest the heat of the American southwest where Hayes grew up and the story is set. This will be a fun book for young children to have read to them and an even more satisfying read for older ones, especially boys, to enjoy on their own.