Some folks think too small. If you're going to create a book in which a kid systematically paints every thing around him (living, inanimate, you name it) then you need a certain amount of pizzaz. A bit of whoopsie. A smidgen of hootenanny (recipe: a little bit of hoot, a whole lot of nanny). So let's take "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More". Author Karen Beaumont has rewritten that familiar old folksy ballad "Oh It Ain't Gonna Rain No More" and has reconfigured it into a wild whoopsy-laden affair involving paint here, paint there, and paint just about everywhere. Add into the mix the child-friendly anarchy of David Catrow and you've got yerself a book so jumpety and pleased with itself that anyone who dares criticize the poor grammar in the title should truly hang their heads in shame. Consarn it!
The endpapers of this book are splattered in a couple coats of multi-colored goo. Fitting then that the first two-page spread shows our hero sitting behind a curtain with a tell-tale brush and pallet lying not too far away. His mother, colorless save a flush of blush at her cheeks and lips, views the room askance. Turn the page and her words are crystal clear. "YA AIN'T A-GONNA PAINT NO MORE!". The boy sits in a paint splattered tub, his arms crossed in thinly disguised fury. Across from him his dog sits patiently, regarding him. With that, mama has taken all the paints and storied them nice and neat on the topmost shelf of the hallway closet. Little does she know that her son has seen the hiding place, and a few well-placed hatboxes and bowling balls later, the set is back in his hands. The house is now all black and white, but you get the feeling that this is just the calm before the storm. The boy kneels reverently in front of his first can of paint. Say the words, "So I take some red and I paint my... HEAD!", and suddenly we've the exact same picture as that on the cover of the book except now the page is awash in reds, pinks, and some vibrant oranges. "Aw, what the heck! Gonna paint my... NECK!". Green with darker green triangles. The kid is nothing if not creative. The farther you go the more body parts are covered by the child until at last he says, "But I'm such a nut, gonna paint my-". Hold your fears, gentle parents. Mama has interrupted his excesses at last. So it's back into the tub he goes, arms crossed again, and a washcloth over his face.
As a children's librarian I'm slow to embrace new readaloud picture books. If "Bark, George" isn't around then "Duck On a Bike" will be and I don't need anything else (harumph harump). This book, however, is a storytime dream come true. Can't sing the book cause you're tone deaf? Try chanting it ala Rex Harrison. Better still, you can really get the kids involved in the book if they're old enough for it. Have them guess which body part is next on the agenda. By the time you almost get to the painted butt (which is seen but not colorized) the kids will be dying with laughter. It's a cheap joke, but sometimes the cheapies are the best.
And then there's the colors. My goodness me this looks like an explosion in a rainbow somewhere. Catrow has never been given as much leverage as he has here to go completely wild and crazy. I can't imagine another children's illustrator who could compare to him in terms of total excess and enjoyment. If anyone, maybe Stephen Gammell could have reached Catrow's heights. Maybe. Not necessarily. The book is awash in enough splotches and splatters to hypnotize even the dullest of children. Add in the catchy lyrics and what you have, my friend, is a book fit for the ages.
If you feel like pairing this with another catchy picture book extravaganza, try bringing this to a storytime alongside Jim Aylesworth's, "Old Black Fly". The books have a similar tone and painterly style to them, and both make ideal songs for either singing or chanting. Otherwise, "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More" stands alone in its excellence. A necessity for any library collection and a great gift for each and every little one on your shopping list.