There are many things that I like about this picture book, but mostly I like that it doesn’t condescend to the reader. Mac Barnett assumes that children like challenges when they read and aren’t afraid to tackle the question of “What does this mean?” When you finish The Skunk, you are left to ponder what was going on throughout the story, what you think the ending means, and what will happen next. It’s a book that makes you think, and for children that can result in very creative ideas!
Patrick McDonnell’s illustrations are wonderful, as always, and fit the style of Barnett’s narration. The sepia images, with highlights of red, fit the mystery style of the story. I love how the skunk and the man are reflective of each other — the skunk’s red nose and the man’s red bow tie connect the two characters, and often their expressions and poses mirror one another. I also love how the colors of the illustrations change when the dynamic of the story shifts and the man finally loses the skunk.
Overall, this story and the accompanying illustrations will entertain you and make you think. I think it would make a good read-aloud, especially for older grades, and could be used to introduce a writing activity that would encourage students to expand on the story — figure out why the skunk was following the man, or what happens now that the man is following the skunk?