(If Tom wrote a picture book, Jaime Zollars would HAVE to illustrate!)
It’s funny how different people get different things from a picture book. In her awesome review of Slidy Diner (for Eclectica), Colleen Mondor points unwittingly to my secret debt to the Tom Waits record, Bone Machine. Genre-defying punk-rock calliope?Â Ummmmm, yeah!Â I’ll take that, and write 10 more if someone gives me half a chance. Here ’tis:
Laurel Snyder combines a bit of grossness and some sly humor for her off-the-wall treat, Inside the Slidy Diner. The perfectly charming and cute protagonist Edie explains that she spends her days in the diner because she once “stole a lemon drop from the box behind the counter, and got caught.” Ethelmae, who runs the diner, “sees everything.” Edie sort of works at the diner to repay her transgression but mostly she observes all the strangeness, from the sometimes odd patrons (“a gray man at the counter who mumbles and smells like mice”), to the disgusting dishes (if it’s crunchy avoid it all costs). She happily points out the grease and leads her companion on a trip to the bathroom which becomes reminiscent of the search for the Grail and results in a most exquisite surprise.
Slidy Diner is genre-defying but dwells on the side of story-telling where carnivals and puppet shows and calliope music reside. It’s not a scary book at allâ€”it’s too over-the-top for fearâ€”but Snyder does dance right up to genuine fright; she almost dares the reader to think she will go over. But if you are brave enough to turn the pages past the icky food and slimy seats and through the flooded out basement then what you find is stars and crowns and giddy fun. So why is Edie really there and what is the Slidy Diner truly about? I have no idea but this odd little story with Jaime Zollars’ big lush illustrations, is something that has to be read to be truly appreciated. I don’t know how Snyder came up with it (I can’t imagine how she came up with this) but it’s an intrigue and curiosity and close to a punk picture book fairy tale. (If you like your fairy stories a bit dark and sneaky of course.)