As the year, any year, comes to a close, we are compelled by cultural pressures and lifestyle evangelists to evaluate our lives and either pat ourselves on the back for a job well done (unlikely), or resolve to improve our shortcomings (more likely) in the new year. I fall into the latter category. I always fall into the latter category. Unhelpful and occasionally unhealthy patterns plague me year after year, and year after year I resolve to change them…to break free…to be the person I’m meant to be, or something like that. But, I’m stuck. Stuck in routines and behaviours that prevent me from moving beyond my present situation (and dress size.) After many failed attempts to deal with my various and largely self-imposed problems, I need a new plan of attack. Luckily, and just in time, Oliver Jeffers has published a new how-to book on this very subject. Sure, it may be difficult to obtain the required blue whale and an ocean freighter, but I am game, and willing to try anything once. I just wish I didn’t throw like a girl.

Stuck begins when young Lloyd, a big-headed boy in a plaid shirt, gets his kite stuck in a tree. He throws a shoe at the tree, but fails to dislodge the kite. And then the shoe gets stuck. After trying the other shoe-with the same result, he finds his cat Mitch and launches the feline up into the tree. Finally, Lloyd grabs a ladder, but instead of doing the obvious, he hucks it in the air, where it too gets stuck with all the other stuff, including (I imagine) one very ticked off kitty. As a problem-solver, Lloyd definitely thinks out of the box, but his imaginative response to the problem may not actually put the kite back in his hands. Nevertheless, up goes a chair, a kitchen sink, the family car, an orangutan, the afforementioned ocean liner, and a ‘curious whale in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

And they all got stuck.

Not to despair, Lloyd is a very clever boy indeed, if not entirely logical. A lightbulb goes on over his head, and while it too ends up in the tree, Lloyd is able to use the idea to retrieve his beloved kite. But what of the bulging, meowing, thing-laden tree? What of the orangutan, and the rhinoceros? Yeah, just as I thought.

Throwing stuff at a problem only compounds the problem. Good to know, because while Lloyd’s predicament is handled with humour, resourcefulness, and a lot of imagination, I’ve had a great deal of difficulty obtaining a whale to throw at my problems. The kid must have connections.

Stuck is the latest book by the wildly talented, and wonderfully warped Oliver Jeffers. Each of his previous books have been fabulous, but I was particularly struck with Stuck. Maybe it’s the word itself, which is so resonant for so many people, including me. Or maybe it’s the art; page after page of spare, gorgeous illustration. The depiction of the tree, nothing more than a splash of colour with scribbled foliage, is a beautiful thing, especially when it’s bursting with Lloyd’s living and non-living missiles. As with a few of his previous books, the text is handwritten, with the occasional scribbled-out word, which adds to the warmth and charm of the story, but also acts as an extension to the illustration. There is a lot to love in this book, even if some of the suggestions are implausible, if not downright illegal.

Oliver Jeffers is a man in possession of an imagination that is open to all possibilities, be it a boy who eats books (The Incredible Book Eating Boy), or a kid who pals around with aliens (The Way Back Home), or a tree that is oddly receptive to flying objects. He is a painter, writer, and one of the best (and funniest) illustrators at work today. Originally from Belfast, Oliver now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

 Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, published by HarperCollins, 2011  ISBN: 978-0007263868