The Great Indoors
on Publisher's Weekly:
Vacation time! No sooner does the RV, piled high with camping gear, head off down the road toward Mother Nature than Nature begins moving into the empty house. “The bears always arrived first,” Falatko begins, and the bears are soon joined by beavers lugging groceries, deer with a karaoke machine and disco balls, and skunks plugging in their cell phones: “Ah, the simple life. When you want light, you just flip a switch. So simple.” Alas, the idyll begins to sour after a week (“You’re not supposed to put nacho cheese in the toaster!”), as the garbage and litter mount up and the pleasures of outdoor peace and quiet, not to mention the ease of just peeing behind a tree rather than having to figure out how to use the toilet and toilet paper, begin to look more and more appealing. In hilarious cartoon illustrations, Chan follows the wild visitors (some of whom are given human ’dos just to make the episode’s point a bit more explicit) as they exuberantly trash their temporary habitat and, when the revels pall, wearily depart for their native one . . . just before, unsuspecting, the human vacationers walk back through the door. A peaceful nature scene closes as neat a bit of turnabout as ever was.
Deborah Stevenson on Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books wrote:
Humans head to the outdoors to get away from it all—why shouldn’t forest animals recharge their batteries by doing the exact opposite? That’s the perfectly reasonable explanation for a bunch of critters surreptitiously turning a house into vacation central while its human owners are away. This is the real “simple life”: a roof over their heads, a big-screen TV, a kitchen (the beavers cook lasagna and bring lots of ice cream), and great phone reception. “The most relaxing week of the year” says a blissed-out mother bear. But every vacation eventually runs out of steam (“I miss peeing behind a tree,” a skunk says; “Who keeps licking the butter?” a beaver asks) and the group decamps, leaving behind a house that’s definitely worse for the wear and promising to rendezvous at the same time next year. Cartooning by Chan (Georgie’s Best Bad Day) has a naive goofiness that nails the void-the-warranty spirit of time off, while Falatko (the Snappsy the Alligator series) effectively voices both deadpan narrator (“As the days went by, thing got less than perfect”) and leisure-obsessed animals: “Good-bye, peace and quiet!” “Hello, dance party!”
Julie Danielson on Horn Book wrote:
A human family is leaving home on vacation, so it's time for the animals' vacation too—in the humans' vacated home. First, the bears come, then the beavers ("I do so love a roof over my head"), then the deer and the skunks, all enjoying the delights of refrigeration, cellphone reception, and big-screen TV. After a few days, though, the charms pall, conflicts arise, and wear and tear happens ("You're not supposed to put nacho cheese in the toaster!"). Finally, everybody's ready to go home ("I miss peeing behind a tree"), and they leave the place just before the return of the humans—to their trashed house. The homestay reversal is a clever notion wittily executed, like a long-awaited payback for the Goldilocks incident (there's even a bit of a hat-tip in one ursine spread), and audiences will giggle at the industriously cooking beavers and the party-animal deer. Chan's line and watercolor art has an airy yet playful Jon Agee quality in the pale tones and rotund, wide-eyed figures of critters, and scenes offer myriad entertaining details, especially as the chaos mounts, that will tickle youngsters. Kids will appreciate the entertaining riff on the way vacations go wrong and right, and maybe they'll cast a longing look behind them for possible animal adventure as they leave for their own holiday.
The tables are turned in this mischievous comedy about the highs and lows of camping. As a camper van full of humans drives away from a house, two bears in the front yard come out of hiding: the coast is clear. Father, mother, and teenage bear — soon followed by beaver, deer, and skunk families — waltz in, luggage and groceries in hand, looking forward to the “most relaxing week of the year.” The deer bring a karaoke machine and disco ball; the beavers take over the kitchen; the skunks take advantage of the cellphone reception; and the bears lounge about (though the teen prefers primping in the bathroom). The animals’ week of excess and crowded quarters, however, leads to discord and chaos, with everyone eventually realizing that “the great indoors is too much work.” They pack up and head out, cheerfully promising to return next year. Chan’s cartoon illustrations are playful and expressive, and the mostly dark-brown forest animals stand out against primarily pastel-colored backgrounds. Chan gives human hairdos to some of the creatures — father bear has a comb-over — and plays up the outlandish humor inherent in forest creatures vacationing indoors. The story stops just short of the human family members’ discovery of the wreckage by showing them on the doorstep, happy to be home, tantalizingly leaving their presumed shock and dismay to readers’ imaginations.