If you haven’t heard, I’m doing my favorite kind of homework… studying picture books! For the Picture Books 14:14 Challenge, I’m choosing a picture book each day for two weeks and looking into how they exemplify one of the Top 10 Story Elements for Picture Books. Today’s pick? Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads for its smart and endearing use of dialogue.
Title: Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads
Author: Bob Shea
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2014
Everything about this story is wonderfully silly, from the moment the young new sheriff comes riding into town… slowly… on his tortoise. When the mayor asks what qualifies him to be the sheriff, he answers simply:
I know a really lot about dinosaurs.
The Toad Brothers are wreaking criminal havoc on the town, but the sheriff uses his dinosaur knowledge to convince everyone that it must be dinosaurs committing the crimes until the Toads are so dismayed for not getting credit for their thievery that they walk themselves right into the jail.
The plot is already strong and silly, but it’s the dialogue that really amps up the tension in the conflict while also revealing character for the clever sheriff and the dimwitted criminals and adding fun dialect and wordplay.
For example, after a stagecoach robbery, the mayor asks if it was the Toad Brothers, to which the sheriff answers:
Nope. Velociraptors. Whole mess a them. Confused your stagecoach with a lumbering Protoceratops, I reckon. Honest mistake.
Dialogue shows the Toad Brothers’ increasing frustration at the blame falling on the dinosaurs:
What? That ain’t right. We done robbed those! […] And weren’t no try-lollipops kissin’ them cattle neither. Why I smooched them beefy lips my own self!
The sheriff runs with their frustrations:
Well, I reckon I could arrest you for being such a plumb nuisance, but I need this here jail for the real criminals. Dinosaurs are mighty big.
He’s tricked the Toads into imprisoning themselves, and his sharp banter about dinosaurs has tricked the rest of the town, too. The sheriff is ready to ride… slowly… off into the sunset when the mayor asks if he would consider staying as the town’s paleontologist.
“Sorry, Mayor,” said Sheriff Ryan. “I’m a lawman.”
Hope you enjoy this silly yet smart story as much as I did!