Wednesday, May 07, 2008


It's May, it's May, hooray, hooray! To tell you the truth, though I'm not one to wish away time, I'm happy to see April in the rear-view mirror. I was plagued with some sort of respiratory/allergy/asthma nonsense that had me canceling dates and moving deadlines, kvetching like a 98-year-old, and so high on Codine that one friend accused me of sounding like "Towelie" from South Park. But they say that laughter is the best medicine, so in the interest of spring fever I offer you this healthy dose of the funniest new picture books I could find:

JUMPY JACK & GOOGILY by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall (Holt)
In the spirit of Monsters, Inc. without the corporate touch, we have a snail with a deep-seated fear of monsters, without realizing that his best friend is of that ilk. Googily, with sharp teeth but a disarming smile and eyes that are, indeed, googly, very endearingly checks wading pools, closets, under tables and beds for any culprits, and children will enjoy the inside joke of a monster inserting himself into every place that Jumpy Jacks fears one might be. After Googily has done a thorough job of easing Jumpy Jack's fears, can Jumpy Jack return the favor? Smooth, stylized illustrations in an unusually attractive palette are permeated with silliness, and besides being genuinely funny, it's a solid and sensitive little storytime stroll through themes of patience, empathy and cooperation. This author and illustrator duo has already has earned many fans with their naughty friends rooting around in MEET WILD BOARS; this story is kindler and gentler, but every bit as comical. I'm scared of how monstrously popular this book could become. (5 and up)

Also recommended:

STARRING MISS DARLENE written, produced and directed by Amy Schwartz (Roaring Brook) Darlene tries very hard to take direction in her acting class, but manages to botch things up most dramatically. She takes a little snooze during her big scene in Sleeping Beauty, find herself all wet in the flood of Noah's Ark, and does a little ad-libbing when she can't remember the lines. Thankfully, the theater reviewer who comes to three performances tends to appreciate the avant-garde. This book will go far to alleviate any stage fright, proving that there are no small parts, only small actors...and this hippopotamus is definitely not one of them. This book is full of inspired, unexpected twists and face-hurting laugh-out-loud moments. The treatment has murmurings of James Marshall's FOX ON STAGE, though clearly, Schwartz enjoys a genius all her own. Applause, applause! (5 and up)

DEAR MISS PERFECT: A BEAST'S GUIDE TO PROPER BEHAVIOR by Sandra Dutton (Houghton Mifflin) Perhaps you are a porcupine looking for a dance partner. An elephant unsure of where to lay your trunk during meals. A raccoon questioning the proper protocol when rooting through a garbage can. Or a shy turtle with an oral book report looming. When I first picked up this book, I was anticipating something more along the lines of Sesyle Johnson and Maurice Sendak's WHAT DO YOU SAY, DEAR? assuming that the beasts to whom the author was referring were actually (ahem) children, but she did, in fact, mean other members of the animal kingdom. Even though the characters are wild things, the eloquent letters and lessons of compromise and consideration easily transfer to other genus. Loose cartoon illustrations are from the school of James Stevenson and Betsy Lewin, and the hilarity of this book exceeded all expectations and bears repeated readings. Perhaps if we say please very nicely, there will be more Miss Perfect books to look forward to, hopefully a quest for the perfect companion as alluded to on the last page. For now, we'll just have to frequent Miss Perfect's lovely website, and make our best efforts to make good behavioral choices. A spoof on the advice columns that the author enjoyed as a child, I must say thank you for a truly outstanding and original book that I personally consider a "must-have." (5 and up)

BIG BAD BUNNY by Franny Billingsley, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Atheneum) Baby Boo-Boo is clearly misunderstood. This is not a little mousie baby. Oh nooooo. She is a scratchity-clawed, pointy-toothed, growling, stomping, chomping roaring bunny! GRRRR! STOMP! ROAR! But when this Big Bad Bunny takes a wrong turn and gets lost, will she appreciate the coddling efforts of a well-meaning mommy? With the culminating intensity of Jez Alborough's WATCH OUT! BIG BRO'S COMING!, this book mounts to a satisfying conclusion. Children will certainly identify with Big Bad Bunny's desire to get her "props," and having a little girl be so loud and grouchy was refreshing (in a book, anyway). Super cute illustrations are perfect for spring storytimes; share by alternating your little sweetie squeaky voice with your growly-howly monster voice for best effect, and you'll find that your meekest mice will hop right on the bunny bandwagon. (4 and up)

DOCTOR TED by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre (McElderberry Books) When Ted Bear skins his knee and can't find a doctor, he becomes the change he wishes to see in the world. Unfortunately, his diagnosis generously offered at home and school might put him at risk for malpractice. ("His mother was in the kitchen. "You have measles," said Doctor Ted. "We should operate." "Those are my freckles," said his mother. "Eat your breakfast.") When he manages to do more harm than good with his teacher and principal, it looks like Ted is going to have to hang up his stethoscope, until a real emergency on the playground gives him the chance to exercise his skill as a caretaker. Bold, black-line and color illustrations against hospital white background are particularly pleasing to the early childhood eye. Andrea Beaty recently penned everyone's favorite book about the inventive builder, IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT, and it seems the craft of this talented storyteller just gets better and better; she is definitely an author to watch. With a daring and hilarious wit that aligns your funny bone page after page, this book is truly a perfect storytime prescription, and it was so nice to get it while still on an HMO. A must in every pediatrician's office, and every children's library; read one and call me in the morning. (5 and up)

DUCKS DON'T WEAR SOCKS by John Nedwidek, illustrated by Lee White (Viking) One day, while Emily was "in a serious mood, taking a serious walk, she met Duck." Duck is definitely not serious, riding a unicycle. In socks. Why is he wearing socks? Or a tie? Or a hat, for that matter? And certainly, there can be no excuse for a duck in...underwear...or can there?! Children who area bit more tightly sewn will find their stitches coming loose after some time well spent with this unconventional friend. Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu's NO! THAT'S WRONG! (Kane/Miller) is also a story about some animal wardrobe malfunctions, in which a little rabbit is insistent that a frilly pair of red underpants makes for a fetching hat; the endpaper with various animals creatively sporting articles of clothing is worth the cost of the book alone, and should provide endless inspiration for anyone considering trying out for Project Runway. Both of these books provide the young reader with the delicious opportunity to correct someone else, and both these books allow you to use the word "underwear," and, as we learned from Jonathan London's classic FROGGY GETS DRESSED, that's always a good investment. (both 4 and up)

Too many titles, you say? I'm afraid it's tough noogies...if you have ticklish 4 to7 year-olds on your hands, you kind of need every single one. And to add insult to your funny bone injury, if you visit a couple of my favorite kidlit blogs, Three Silly Chicks and Bottom Shelf Books, you'll find more good humor than an ice cream truck. Go ahead! She who laughs, lasts!

Feel free to share your faves...what books get your young reader chuckling?

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


Jen Robinson said...

I adore Doctor Ted, Esme. I'm going to check out some of these others. Googily seems particularly appealing.

Hope you're feeling better!

Vintage Kid's Books My Kid Loves said...

i was getting ready to ask how you have the time to find and read and review all these, but then I figured that was a stupid question. tee hee.

James Austin said...

Hi Esme. I linked to your blog for my new series on Blogs and Holidays. The first holiday I featured was 'Childrens Book Week' and I gave you link honors. Nice blog.

James Austin
'Luke, I am your Father'


Related Posts with Thumbnails