Greatest Kidlit Illustation of All-Time: Mercer Mayer’s “Great Brain Ups Ante”

Funny that to one generation of kids Mercer Mayer is known for Critter, but to my generation (I’ll speak for all of us) he was the artist who so perfectly captured the Great Brain and his antics that the illustrations blended seemlessly with the prose. This IS what it looked like. There’s no question.

We could argue all day over the best of these illustrations, but I’ve chosen this one from The Return of the Great Brain. It doesn’t really have the title I suggested, but you can see from the look on his face that he’s throwing down a challenge. (With the odds stacked in his favor of course.)


What’s happened here is that the kid in the coonskin cap has actually bested Tom at a feat of dering-do. (Swinging across the rafters in the barn, then letting go.) So, Tom decides to up the ante, challenging capboy to prove his mettle by entering a monster-infested cave.

Mercer perfectly captures the whole palaver. Capboy’s skeptical look, Tom’s no-mercy look and the other kids settling in for the show.


One Response

  1. I know these were supposedly “boy books,” but I LOVED these growing up. In fact, I think I want to re-read them. I remember them being filled with a lot of action, but making me think a bit, too.

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