Book Reviews

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I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara S. Garriel

A silly, silly, fun read–aloud. The sillier the tale the more fun it is to read aloud. "I know a shy fellow who swallowed a cello." And we are off and running. "I don’t know why he swallowed a cello," but the why does not matter. We grant the writer the premise that there is this shy fellow who swallowed a cello. What next? Where will the writer take us?

Oh but she has her finger on the musical pulse. He swallows a harp. "Not so sharp," but he does. This shy fellow, who almost faded into the wall is now taking on the most fantastic shapes. What amazing pictures the illustrator has created. We almost wouldn't see the shy fellow on the first page (so well does he merge into the wallpaper) if it was not for his red trousers. There he is, a slim shy fellow listening to chamber music. Turn the page. Slim no more. His body expands and takes on the shape of the cello. How fun, how silly.

As he swallows more instruments the illustrator reflects it in his changing body shape. And also shows us the distraught instrument players, wondering what to do, as their instruments zoom through the air towards this ever-hungry "shy fellow who swallowed a cello." There is the surprised cello player left holding the bow. The harpist, hand–on–hip. The sax player still bent backward in the act of producing that particular note, sans saxophone. The pictures match the words, and enhance them. The illustrator grants us x–ray vision. As the slim fellow becomes slim no more his skin becomes see–through, and we see all the instruments piling within.

Why does he swallow the cello? "I don’t know," says the story, but once he has swallowed one instrument of course he has to swallow more. And more, and more. The cello by itself would be lonely, you see. Each instrument jams with the instrument that has gone before. What a lovely take on the old favorite "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly."

More, more and more, till he swallows a cascabel. The shy fellow swallowed all these big instruments with ease, but the teeny tiny bell dis–eased him.

     "He belched and he burped, he turned shades of yellow.

     It seems he was doomed, that very shy fellow."

The straw that broke the camel’s back. And so they all come out, one–by–one, in reverse order. We see each player receiving the particular instrument. What a nice illustrative detail. The chamber musicians are gathered again, reunited with their instruments.

Did he bellow, this shy fellow who swallowed a cello? We don't know. We do see, on the very last spread, the musical notes following the cello as it hops back to its owner.

A great update on an old favorite.

Title: I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello

Author: Barbara S. Garriel

Illustrator: John O'Brien

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press

Hardback: 30 pages

ISBN: 1-59078-043-4