A day in the youth of motor-mouth Mel Blanc, written by his daughter-in-law.Mel Blanc—the “Man of 1,000 Voices,” including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and the ear-splitting Woody Woodpecker—wasn’t born with a wizard’s tongue; he had to work at it—at top volume. Ebbeler’s setting for this tale of young Mel is pleasingly Edwardian, with lovely background plains of graded color or design with deep, inky linework laid over. This intimacy makes Mel’s riotous creations that much more voluble. Out of bed, he is a dragon, “HHHHHhhhhh….” The sounds Mel creates are hand-lettered, drawn to swirl, evoke, and enfold. Mel finds the best acoustical venues for the figments of his imagination at school: a vaulted hallway for a train (“Woooooo…woo”), the tiled bathroom for a giant shark (“Chomp”). He’s a rascal, which doesn’t escape the principal, for instance, or the playground monitor, or the bus driver (all white, just like Mel and his family). But his vocal cords and his robots, race cars, tornadoes, and bulldogs won’t be tamed. “I’m still the fastest mouth in the world,” even when he is sentenced to school-kitchen duty or raking the family lawn. Blanc’s text is trim and keeps a jazzy, upbeat tempo, presenting the story of one very inventive kid rather than a biography of one of the 20th century’s most oft-heard voices (though a biographical note follows). Dandy and dazzling and top-notch fun.
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Mel Blanc, aka the “Man of a 1,000 Voices,” is the star of this rollicking, exuberant picture book biography. Melvin, who was born in 1908, is depicted here dressed in a suit with short pants and a tie. He’s first seen terrorizing his cat and laughing like Woody Woodpecker before insisting to his parents that he’s a dragon. His imaginary ink-drawn dragon looms over him. At school. He can’t sit still and makes noises wherever and whenever he pleases, earning himself trash duty for recess and a “speeding ticket.” His classmates aren’t sure what to make of him. At home, his supportive yet exhausted parents try to rein him in. but chores turn disastrous as the large-headed, bug-eyed youngster simply cannot be contained. The illustrations combine watercolor and ink drawings and Adobe Photoshop, along with hand-lettered sound effects that swoop and swirl across spreads that contain fun period details. While much of the narrative is fictionalized, a short biographical note follows. VERDICT: Reading this book aloud will guarantee a boisterous romp of a story time in a library or classroom setting, especially if time is set aside to share some well-chosen clips of Blanc’s work.
—School Library Journal
Bugs, Tweety, and countless other well-loved characters can all thank one man for giving them a voice in movies, television, and radio, but before Mel Blanc became an actor, he was a precocious boy with mountains of energy and imagination, earning the nickname Melvin the Mouth. Mel’s daughter-in-law, Katherine Blanc, tells his story with an array of creative artwork from Jeffrey Ebbeler, who fuses lively black-and-white sketches with color spreads, showcasing Mel’s irrepressible spirit.
In a scandalously overdue introduction to Mel Blanc—the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, and approximately 1,500 other characters—from his daughter-in-law, hyperactive young Melvin (“fastest mouth in the world!”) sets school halls ringing as a roaring tiger and whooshing locomotive, becomes a whirling tornado when asked to sweep the floor at home, a hungry hippo at dinner, and finally ends his day (as he began) by impersonating a hissing dragon. Ebbeler dresses the lad, and the discombobulated adults around him, in buttoned-up early-twentieth-century garb and superimposes ghostly black-and-white renditions of Mel’s adopted personas over the genteel settings. If a few anachronisms sneak in, notably references to a “rocket in space” and Melvin using his “robot voice” to count down, views of him leaning insouciantly on an elbow while munching a carrot, or laughing like a certain woodpecker more than compensate as sly visual gags. The author adds an afterword with family photos of her renowned relative as a child and an adult to this exuberant fictionalized tribute.