Okie Dokie Donuts: Open for Business!
written by Chris Eliopoulos
Chris Eliopoulos starts off his book with a song that introduces the world of Big Mama and her donut shop. It’s like a Broadway musical about eating donuts, as each customer steps up and selects a different donut—some kind of strange, but all baked with love.
The song, with its rollicking rhyme, is just a warmup for the main action, a slapstick story about the chaos that ensues when a fast-talking salesman introduces a donut-making machine into Big Mama’s kitchen. A mere machine can’t bake donuts with love, and everyone knows what happens when you put a robot in charge: chaos. When Big Mama’s assistant dumps a can of garbage into the hopper, the machine shoots out a variety of unappetizing donuts—chocolate fish, strawberry socks, rotten fruit. It’s an exceedingly silly story, and while the plot isn’t exactly original—the machine that goes berserk has been a comedy standby since the invention of the lever—Eliopoulos’s execution is lively and fun.
The art in this book is exaggerated and cartoony, reminiscent of Nickelodeon cartoons only even more stylized. While it has a certain retro charm, it is also very busy, especially considering the small format of the book. The pages seem crowded, and the low-key palette Eliopoulos has chosen makes it hard to distinguish foreground from background in some panels. It all blends into a single surface, with no sharp contrasts in value or hue to set off important areas. A larger page size, less detail, and more contrast would have made this an easier book to read.
Still, it’s hard to resist such a good-hearted book. Mama’s donut shop is a warm, cheerful place, and the story is a lot of fun (although it is likely to make you hungry). Eliopoulis plans more Okie Dokie Donuts books, and hopefully he will refine his technique a bit while keeping the same whimsical feel that makes this book such a delight.