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, April 8, 2013

Thank you!

Dear Annie,

It makes sense that Isabel has some hesitation about new habits of reading right now.  Reading independently -- or being able to listen to a sibling who can -- is a great thing, but because reading is such an emotionally satisfying activity, a change can be unsettling.   At a point when parental attention is newly split three ways, the problem with Eleanor may be that she's just not mom or dad.  At different points, Isabel can see learning to read on her own as wonderfully independent, or as not-so-wonderfully reading without parents.  Needless to say, this will all shake out.  I love that picture of the three of them (upper right).

I had another one of those happy surprises today, opening a box of new books and finding a truly delightful one I'd ordered months ago. 
Thank You, Mama
by Kate Banks, spectacularly illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska (you wrote about her new-baby book here) epitomizes to me why we don't need the Berenstain Bears.  This a book about learning to say thank you.  But it's so much more too.

It starts with Alice's mama and papa taking her to the zoo -- on a triple tandem bicycle -- to celebrate her birthday.  When she reaches for a proffered balloon, her father prompts her to say, "Thank you, Papa," which she repeats.
"Would you like a birthday hat? said Alice's mama.
"No," said Alice.  "I don't want a hat."
"No, thank you," said Alice's mama.
"No, thank you, Mama," said Alice.  "I would like a pet."
We then go through a wackily-illustrated series of possible pets.  A giraffe is too tall to pet, Alice wonders where an elephant would sleep, and:
The alert reader will notice the unprompted thank you coming from Alice.  She asks for a parrot -- one has been flying around the edges of the last few pages -- and thanks both mama and papa for it.  When Alice thanks her papa for an ice cream, the parrot chimes in, "Thank you, Papa," and does the same with Mama and another gift.  When they're home, the parrot demands food, and rewards Alice with a "Thank you, Mama."  Alice prompts the parrot to thank Alice, and the parrot declines.
 When she gives the parrot a drink:
"What do you say?" she said [looking a bit stern].
"Thank you, Papa," said the parrot.
"No," said Alice.  "Thank you, Alice."
"Thank you, Papa," said the parrot again.
Alice frowned.
Alice's facial expressions are constantly changing and endlessly entertaining.  Here's her goodnight kiss:
The parrot demands a kiss too, and when Alice kisses it:
"Thank you, Alice," said the parrot. "Thank you, Alice."
And Alice kissed the parrot again.
The book is offering a lesson, but without a preachy bone in its little body.  Banks's rhythm and repetition, combined with the warmth and oddness of Swiatkowska's pictures makes it a delightful read.  Thank you, Kate; thank you, Gabi.



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