The Eraserheads

Illustrated by Boris Kulikov Published April 2010

4 + 3 = 8?

Whoops!  That’s not right.

Looks like a job for the eraserheads!

The three eraserheads—an owl, a crocodile, and a pig—live atop three pencils in the land of paper, rulers, letters, and numbers. Their job is to help a little boy correct his mistakes. But one day they make a mistake of their own—and what happens next is something nobody expected.

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The creators of Max’s Words (2006) and Max’s Dragon (2008) collaborate again in this picture-book fantasy that begins in a very mundane, everyday setting: at a desk where a boy struggles with his homework. Three expressive, animal-shaped erasers help by rubbing out mistakes: a crocodile, who is “good with numbers”; an owl, who likes lettersand words; and a pig with a big appetite, who will erase “just aboutanything.” The wild adventures begin when the boy ditches his lessons and begins to draw, and the erasers find themselves whisked perilously through each imagined world. They’re nearly drowned by a tidal wave from a beach scene and chased by wild animals until the crocodile,with some strategic erasing, sends a message to the boy, who sketches a boat and floats the gang safely in a calm sea. Banks folds reassuring messages about mistakes into this inventively illustrated title that, like David Wiesner’s Three Pigs (2001) and Mordicai Gerstein’s A Book (2009), plays with conventional story borders and may inspire kids to sail off on their own imagined escapades. —Gillian Engberg


Banks imbues three pencil erasers—a pig, a crocodile and an owl—with earnest personalities and important jobs to do for an artistic boy, who is never named. The critters correct math errors, check vocabulary and interact within the boy’s elaborately rendered tableaux. When a sketched road disappears, the croc reacts by over-erasing—and quickly, they’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. The premise—we learn from mistakes—is nearly submerged by author and artist. Menaced by an island’s wild animals, the erasers are suddenly stranded when the boy crumples his drawing and leaves in irritation. Crocodile redeems himself by erasing bits of a snake till there’s an “SOS” for the boy. Smoothing out his drawing, he rescues the trio by adding a boat and a sign reading “Beach.” The complex story line doesn’t always cohere—the setup for the stranding seems too random for primary children. Kulikov delivers a dizzying visual stew that includes everything from the boy’s penciled and crayoned drawings, the erasers’ shiny opacity, a Sendakian Wild Thing and a big frothy wave evocative of Hiroshige. A bit gimmicky but nonetheless engrossing.

School Library Journal

What a boy imagines while drawing is chronicled through a dialogue with an owl, a pig, and a crocodile, eraser creatures that live atop his colored pencils. The owl is good with words and backward letters. The pig erases everything except animals drawn larger than him. The crocodile is in charge of numbers. When the boy runs out of room after drawing a landscape, the crocodile goes too far, erasing and erasing until the trio lands in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly a wave sweeps the fearful friends onto a desert island, and they are chased by wild animals. The boy crumples and abandons his work, leaving the eraserheads stuck unless they can figure a way to inspire him to persevere and transform the scene into something else. Kulikov, a master of mixed-media illustrations, effectively uses two contrasting tones to create distinct, but juxtaposed worlds: the boy and his eraserheads are layered and densely rendered, while the child’s artwork and the background images are lightly sketched and hatched with a watercolor base. This complex tale will intrigue those adventurers ready for a Jumanji-like experience of jumping into the arduous but rewarding creative process of persevering through mistakes. —Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City