I first looked into Jean-Luc Fromental's Oops!, because of 365 Penguins' popularity with my children. However, Oops! does not feature any penguins and I wouldn't call it a sequel, except that it features the same family and a similar brand of absurdity -- and it is the same huge size.
What Oops! does have is a Parisian setting. The family sets off for the airport when a bar of soap, accidentally flung from the window by their showering Aunt Roberta, sets in motion a series of events which cause great havoc all over the City of Lights. While the text narrates the family's journey, the illustrations reveal a disastrously absurd chain of events. The family ends up missing the plane, but an out-of-this-world (literally) coincidence gets them safely to their vacation destination. Joëlle Jolivet's illustrations are more colorful this time, but her use of block of color still maintain the retro feel found in 365 Penguins.
There is a great deal of fun to be had exploring casual events in children's books like Fortunately, or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but Oops! is much more complicated than either of these books and wisely includes a thumbnail explanation in the end pages, which my older son liked looking at. Personally, I found the thumbnail explanation essential to figuring out the action of the book, which could sometimes be a bit obscure. My 2 year old, however, was just interested in the many, many different forms of transport depicted.
Perhaps because this book is written and illustrated by a French team, Paris is not reduced to a city of landmarks, as so often happens in "picture books about Paris." But, of course, the recognizable architecture is ever present and we even get a bit of an introduction to the sewer system. With its high density of people and objects, the Big City is uniquely suited as a location where one small action will cause an unstoppable cascade of events. It is hard to imagine this scale of catastrophe taking place in, say, a cornfield (although that sounds like a funny premise for a book, too.)
The bright colors and large size might entice your 3 year old, but I recommend this book for a slightly older crowd.
Visit the artist's website to see more of her artwork, or read her blog (in French).
Big Kid says: That was weird.
Little Kid says: Cars and Buses!