Kevin O’Malley has a wild sense of humor that shines in his books and presentations. Originally trained as an illustrator, Kevin made his authorial debut in 1992 with Froggy Went A-Courting, based on a well-known folk ballad (a form that provides much of his inspiration). Kevin said that when he first heard the song, he didn’t know what the term “carding” meant. In his mind it conjured up a card game, so that’s the spin he put on the story. Froggy is a notorious gangster gambler, and Miss Mousie, his bride-to-be, an owner of a posh gambling nightclub. Needless to say, madcap action ensues.
Since then Kevin has continued to express himself in his books. His works have included tales of a rhinoceros losing his homework, a jewel theft, and a quest to ride a roller coaster. His latest books range from nonfiction to raucous humor, with everything in between. He has always loved drawing and shares his enthusiasm for the medium with his talks with kids in schools. Kevin lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his artist wife and two sons.
The Great Race
In this version of the tale of the tortoise and the hare, the rabbit character, Lever Lapin, is a world-famous, egotistical runner. Nate Tortoise is tired of hearing about him. He is really annoyed when the hare enters the restaurant where Nate is eating, taking over Nate’s table and boasting away. Nate boldly challenges him to a race. After a week of training, Nate begins slowly as Lever Lapin takes off down the road. Of course the hare takes time off to show off for the crowd. Then he stops for a bite at La Gaganspew, and to sign autographs. By the time he spots Nate through the window, it is too late to get through the crowd. Nate wins. The next day he reads with satisfaction the newspaper headline, “BETTER NATE THAN LEVER!” Watercolors and FW ink create anthropomorphic animals brimming with personality, in just enough settings to support the comedy. The brief text is enhanced with bantering, rectangular speech balloons, and large bold typeface. A couple of extreme close-ups of Lever are particularly engaging as they leave us in no doubt about his egocentricity. This fresh take on an old story has added humor. 2011, Walker Publishing Company/Bloomsbury Publishing, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
Animal Crackers Fly the Coop
This large picture book with a handsomely illustrated dust jacket is a thinly-disguised in-your-face joke book about a hen that wants to appear on stage in a comedy show. She wants to be a “comedi-hen.” She eventually encounters a dog, then a cat, and finally a cow who also want to be comedians. One day while they are together, they stumble upon three robbers in a deserted house.. After foiling the criminals’ plans to rob a bank, the four jokesters take control of the house for their comedy club and their dream is realized. Many of the jokes employ double meanings and words that sound alike but have different meanings. The author’s colorful page-size illustrations are engaging and all of the text is in boxes. 2010, Walker, $16.99. Ages 7 up. Reviewer: Eleanor Heldrich (Children’s Literature).
The Birthday Pet
Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley
Danny’s birthday is coming and his parents have told him he can have any pet he wants. Danny considers the pros and cons of several different animals and announces that he wants a turtle. His dad thinks Danny needs a more active pet, so he brings home a dog. The rambunctious puppy knocks Danny over and runs away when they go outside. Danny repeats his plea, “All I really want is a turtle,” each time well-meaning family members introduce something else. His mom thinks he needs a kitten, his brother brings him a rat, and his sister appears with a bird. None of these animals appeal to Danny. Finally his family gets the message and Danny gets his turtle. Written in verse, the rhyming words create a cadenced flow. The colorful illustrations set on white backgrounds contribute to the fun of the story as they show Danny pulling his hoods and collars up to look like a turtle and his preoccupation with making himself a turtle shell with a large cardboard box. A fun read aloud with a subtle message. 2009, Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Kevin’s school visits are lively affairs that have drawn him comparisons to Robin Williams. His goal is to make everyone in the room laugh. He first explains how he got started in illustration and children’s books. Then he leads a group re-telling of a fairy tale or folktale, complete with Kevin drawing the story on oversized paper. Kevin’s visits are geared mostly for grades K-6 (although other grades can be accommodated) and he can do up to four presentations of around one hour per day, with each presentation aimed at a different age group.
Fees: For a full day of four sessions the price is $1900. If airfare and overnight accomodations are necessary the school is responsible for those costs.
To learn more about Kevin O’Malley and his publications please visit