My kids get older. (You can read that as I feel a lot older as their tastes move from picture books to chapter books to young adult fantasy.) I find myself enjoying more and more opportunities to recapture a bit of their youth by reading younger fiction. If you read my previous reviews of Amelia Picklewiggle, you already know I'm a big fan of the straightforward story lines and the whimsical artwork. I took a look at two upcoming books. (That's right, I got pre-release privileges. Go ahead take a moment to bask in the glory.) I knew I'd enjoy them, but I didn't expect to be quite so enamored with them.
First, I took a look at Andrew's Counting Clowns. You probably already know I enlist the help of my beautiful youngest daughter Abby for children's books, but there was nothing doing with this one. I can get her to read below her level and even enjoy books that are appropriate for someone half of her very mature eight years of age, but a counting book crossed the limit, and I just got an exasperated roll of the eyes and a stare that was more pitying than vicious. So, this one's all me. I have to be honest. I don't remember learning to count. I remember my mother taught me, and I remember what a tremendous accomplishment I felt when I reached ninety-nine and then my mother told me the "Big One Hundred" came after that. I was confused a few months later in kindergarten because the teacher asked who knew how to count to a hundred and I didn't realize that one hundred and a hundred were the same thing. I wonder if I would even remember learning how to count without that embarrassing moment.
I do, however, remember teaching my kids to count, and children's counting books always played an important role. My beautiful (and much smarter) wife and I spent countless hours reading to the kids before they were even coordinated enough to hold the books. I wish Andrew's Counting Clowns had been available. The art is beautiful and hilarious. The bright colors are sure to keep the little one's attention, and yet it's not filled with the strange and condescending feeling that so many "educational" books for young readers seem to produce. You can believe that when my oldest boy gets off his rear and starts producing grandkids we'll be reading this book to them right before we rile them up so they're completely unmanageable and hand them back over.
The next of Picklewiggle's books I cracked open was Millie the Mummy. Although this was also below her age level, I managed to get Abigail to look at it. Let's just say I'll be spending the next week or so having to hide the toilet tissue from an eight year old who wants to wrap herself in it to pretend to be a mummy. The plot revolves around a young mummy decorating for her school's Halloween party. Since the whole town is filled with ghosts and goblins, there are a bunch of funny moments. Abby giggled forever when we discovered Walter the Werewolf. (I was named after my grandfather, who was most definitely not a werewolf but nonetheless was without question a Walter.) For quite some time, I was Walter the Werewolf amid squeals and eight year old giggles. She also got a kick out of the janitor, Mr. Frankenstein, who helps Wanda the Witch up a ladder. (He picks her up.) Once again, Picklewiggle proves that she knows what kids love. The language is plain and non-pedantic. The art is funny and beautiful.
The last of my Picklewiggle trio is the same Halloween series. Victoria the Vampire tells the story of...well...a vampire named Victoria. This was another giggle fest. First off, the little vampire sleeps in a four poster coffin with a canopy. It took a while to get Abby to calm down enough to keep reading. Then, Wanda the Witch and Victoria dress up as ghosts to try to be scary. Okay...a witch and a vampire want to scare their friends so they put on bed sheets with eye holes. Abigail giggled like...like Abigail. Millie makes an appearance in this one as well, and they recruit her to also dress up like a ghost. The three little ghouls (sorry, bad pun, I know) continue scaring their friends. The sight of a Frankenstein Monster cringing at the sight of a bed sheet ghost is priceless. Eventually, they decide to go back to Victoria's house to watch movies. What kind? Scary movies, of course.
I love that Picklewiggle's books don't talk down to kids. They're geared toward a young audience, but they don't treat the audience like numbskulls. Keep writing Amanda, and maybe when Abby has kids of her own I'll still be able to sit down and read with her and think of her as my little girl.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
I just love that I do what I do. I haven’t had a real job in forever. Instead, I get to read, write, eat, sleep, and play with my kids all day long. I love when all of these things come together. They did over the last few days. Amelia Picklewiggle’s children’s books did it for me. I got to read them, write about them, eat treats with Abby, and play with her while she gave me her expert commentary on Tessa’s Troubles, Samuel’s Big Day, and A Day at the Circus. The truth is, she’s too big for these books and has made her way into chapter books, spending hours devouring far more advanced stuff. I think she’s happy for the time we spent on these ones, though.
Tessa’s Troubles tells the story of a rescued Dachshund shopping for Valentine’s Day presents with her owner, Mommy. Abby says, “It’s a really cute dog, and dogs really are spoiled in stores.” It’s a sweet story, and I quite enjoyed it. I have to say that the art is playful and whimsical. It’s a fine picture book, though I think Tessa’s troubles are far behind her by the time this book starts. I enjoy the interactions between Mommy and Tessa, and anyone who’s ever had a rescued dog will recognize the situations.
Samuel’s Big Day tells the story of a dog waiting to be adopted and how a family chooses him from among other dogs at the fair. Abby says, “Sammy was sad because nobody wanted him, but somebody did want him. He just hadn’t met her yet. Most people have somebody that want them, Dad [Somehow over the last year, I’ve become Dad instead of Daddy] and they just need to get out and find them.” Pretty profound for an eight year old, huh? The story is cute and heartwarming, and even though it touches on the cliché about the scruffiest or tiniest or ugliest dog getting picked, it doesn’t embrace it. It was a great book, and any kid still in picture books will love it.
A Day at the Circus was another good one. Abby, of course, immediately began bugging me to find a big top somewhere near us, and promptly lost interest in discussing the book. Of course, the excitement itself was as good a vote of confidence as any quote could have been. The art, like the other two books, is whimsical and fun, and I quite enjoyed the book and again think it would work well for younger kids.
I have seven kids, and all of them are past the point where these books will appeal to them fully. Still, I remember reading books like these to all of them, and it’s highly likely that my oldest will be frustrated because of Picklewiggle because now I’m in all-out grandkid mode. So come on, Zac, get off your rear, find a wife, and give me grandkids. You, too Nate. Nic, what’s up with that girl you took out? Any hope for the pitter patter of little feet? Get busy. I want to hold little kids again (aptly named WJ after their doting grandfather.) I’ve already got the books picked out I want to read to them.