Book review: Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show

All parents will be able to relate to the trials and tribulations of Kel Gilligan and to see the humor in them as well. Photo: Dan Santat

SILVER SPRING, Md, January 4, 2013 – Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Dan Santat   ISBN: 9781419703799

Kel Gilligan is a daredevil (You haven’t heard about him? Really?). He tells us he is called “the boy without fear,” and as any good daredevil would do, he laughs in the face of danger. However his stunts are a little more daring than jumping a big wheel over the dog. His stunts amaze all those around him. He put his life at risk…eating broccoli and using the potty.

But while he enjoys regaling you with tales of his prior exploits, Kel is most interested in telling you about his latest stunts. The first of the day is dressing himself, then the parade of feats continue: not interrupting his mother’s phone call, taking a bath (with only one assistant!), and going to bed without checking for monsters. However, not all stunts go as planned, and Kel fails in his attempt at restful sleep. But that is alright, because it leads to his most daring stunt of the day, keeping his parents safe from the monsters under their bed, because, after all, he does “dangerous stuff like this all the time.”

Photo by Robynlou Kavanagh.

This is a truly funny book that may have parents laughing more than the children who the book is intended for. Santat does a good job with the illustrations, even adding a video play-back feel to the pages that depict the prior stunts. He also includes cartoon dialogue bubbles for the characters who witness the earliest stunts. Comments like, “He has some kind of death wish,” and “New foods are horrifying,” coming from the mouths of the adults as Kel eats a broccoli top are chuckle worthy, but also add to the reader’s understanding of how Kel sees himself.

The pictures really amplify the humor of the story. The visuals of Kel wrestling with his shirt, being doused in the tub, and huddling wide-eyed in his mother’s arms while his father looks under the bed complete the story better than any words could.

While I think any preschooler would appreciate Kel Gilligan, boys are more likely to relate to the daredevil. It is also a good book for parents of young children who are fighting them about trying new foods or are afraid of the dark. Buckley and Santat give you a character, who not only deals with those same fear, but faces them and takes the challenge on because he wants to be seen as brave. Having a positive spin on tackling problems that children otherwise might fight is a boon for parents.

While Buckley is a well-established in children’s literature with his young reader series The Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S., Kel Gilligan is his first foray into the younger children’s picture book market. Illustrator Dan Santat, on the other hand, is a picture book veteran, having 13 other picture books to his credit.

Any parent with an adventurous little boy will recognize their son in Kel Gilligan, but all parents will be able to relate to his trials and tribulations and be able to see the humor in them as well.

Photo by J. Aaron Farr. Click to enlarge.

Published by Abrams in September of 2012, Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show is available only as a hardcover.


Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times. Find more reviews o`f children’s picture books at Big Reads For Little Hands.



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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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