In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bow-Wow. Woof.

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Oh, I wish I had a week, a month, to read YA and adult books!

What I have been reading, and rereading, and rereading, are all the board books we own with dogs in them.  Sometimes you say a thing about your kid, and you feel like you're exaggerating a little bit: "Isabel is obsessed with dogs."  You say it, and you think to yourself, yes, but she has many other interests as well: opening cabinets, for example, and bopping to music, and hiding things in the broiler.  And then day after day, she picks up board books and brings them to you to read, and all of her favorites, bar none, all the books she will sit through to the end and push at you and ask for again, have dogs in them.

I appreciate that you cater to our children's needs.  Two of Isabel's current favorites came from you for her first birthday:

Yip! Snap! Yap!
, by Charles Fuge, is a series of onomatopoeic doggie scenes.  Joyful, sleepy, hot, and grumpy cartoon dogs cavort across the pages.  The doggie sounds are fun, especially the howling puppies "Aroo!  Aroo!  Aroo!"  I'd like to say that I'm in love with the rest of the text, but it scans sort of oddly: it's trying to rhyme and have a rhythm, but doesn't quite work.  Not that Isabel seems to mind.

A Good Day
, by Kevin Henkes (of Lilly fame) isn't just about dogs: there's a bird, and a fox, and a squirrel as well.  Each of them begins by having a bad day: "Little yellow bird lost his favorite tail feather.  Little white dog got her leash tangled up in the fence."  "But then..." Everyone is okay!  "Little white dog worked herself free and ran in circles through the dandelions.  And little yellow bird forgot about his feather and flew higher than he ever had before."  Finally, a little girl finds the feather, and the last drawing pans out to show her running in a scene which includes all four animals, to her mother, shouting, "Mama!  What a good day!"  I can see how this will be a good book to teach perspective and coming back from a bad mood.  Right now, here's the takeaway: "Woof." Isabel points to the dog on the last page.

Do you know the Bow-Wow books?  This is their odd, pleasing website.  They're by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash, and we picked up two of them a couple of years ago for a dollar each from a street vendor: Bow-Wow orders lunch and Bow-Wow naps by number.  We recently found Bow-Wow hears things at the library, and were pleased to discover that it is just as good as the others.  Evidently there are more as well. 

The Bow-Wow books are spare of words, and often contain almost-unchanging pictures.  In Bow-Wow orders lunch, Bow-Wow sits up at a table, his paws in front of him, looking at a plate with a slice of bread on it.  The text reads "Bread."  On the next page, there's a slice of cheese on the bread: "Cheese."  Then bread, then cheese, then bread, then -- an extra slice of bread?  Bow-Wow takes a page to contemplate, then decides: "No."  Then there's meat instead of cheese -- madness!

These books are both simple and very funny, and they turn out to be great read-alouds with Eleanor helping to do the reading: because the text is so simple, she knows it cold, and she and I can read alternate pages to Isabel with ease.  Fun for the whole family.

Love, Annie

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