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.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shaking it up

Dear Annie,

Continuing here with the permeable fourth wall, I'm having a hard time deciding how I feel about
Press Here
by Herve Tullet.  It's a large-format, sturdy-paged book with lots of dots in it.  It starts with one yellow dot and the words, "Press here and turn the page."  Two dots appear on the next page, and the reader is encouraged to press a dot again.  A third dot appears.  One page instructs the reader to tilt the book to the left, and all the dots (there are more by now) end up on the far left side of the page.  Then the book holder straightens it out:

Perfect! ... Now press hard on all the dots. Really hard.

Not bad. Shake them up a little.
Pretty, isn't it?  Try blowing on them ... to get rid of the black.
Hmmmm.  Maybe a bit harder?
And on it goes: clapping makes the dots bigger, and at the end of course, the only thing to do is to go back to the beginning.

One of my colleagues has a three year-old who loves this book.  Like Eleanor and Isabel with the cats, he knows it's not real, and he gets that it's a joke.  I think there's also something satisfyingly tactile about being instructed to put your hands all over a book.  So sometimes I think, this is cool three year-old humor.  Yet at other times it feels a little too cute, a little too much like a kids' book that's angling for a museum shop to sell it.  Too self-conscious, maybe.  What do your girls think of this one?

I have no problems with the hilariously self-conscious 
We Are in a Book!
by the prolific Mo Willems.  This one's my favorite Elephant & Piggie book.  The two characters start out sitting back-to-back.
"Yes, Gerald?"
"I think someone is looking at us."
So Piggie gets up and takes a look:

After some consideration, they agree that "A reader is reading us," leading them to the joyous realization: "We are in a book!"

Piggie gets a crafty look in her eye and says, "I can make the reader say a word," and demonstrates:

The fact that the reader has said Banana leads them to gales of falling-down laughter and a few repeats of the word.  Then the existential realization hits that the book is going to end: Piggie lifts a corner of a page to check how long it is (57 pages).

Gerald, as is his wont,  gets more and more upset:
This book is going too fast!
I have more to give!
More words!
More jokes!
More 'bananas"!
The solution, of course, is to send the reader back to the beginning, to "read us again."

I'm so fond of E&P, and to have them speaking directly to me -- knowing I'm there -- it's a treat.



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