Hey, Al, written by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Richard Egielski, is the somewhat odd tale of a janitor (Al) and his dog (Eddie) who are taken by a large tropical bird to a lush island in the sky. At first this seems like a wonderful escape from their hum-drum life, but over time Al and Eddie begin to turn into birds and decide that they must escape.
Egielski’s illustrations are realistic and detailed. The drab browns of Al’s everyday life give way to the bright, tropical colors of the island. The visuals really make the story.
Richard Egielski has illustrated over 50 books, 8 of which he also wrote. He collaborated with Arthur Yorinks on 9 different children’s books, starting in 1976, but Hey, Al is his only Caldecott Medal (or Honor) book.
This book is probably most appropriate for elementary-aged readers, although the illustrations might be enough to capture slightly younger kids. Overall I find the tone of the book to be just plain weird, rather than charmingly quirky. Not my favorite of the Caldecotts I’ve read so far.
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my fifth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.