Oct 23, 2014

Laughter: Humor Hooks Readers

In the last post I said I'd soon share two very special books that deserve everyone's attention. Well,  these two titles do just that, but they aren't the two stellar title still to come. These, though, need to be returned to library circulation later today, so they bumped their way to the front of the line while the others are ones I purchased and will, I promise, be up next.
Henry Holt and Company, 2014

First up is THIS BOOK JUST ATE MY DOG!, written and illustrated by the UK's Richard Byrne. Humor carries the day in this book, borrowing the approach to breaking the fourth wall by directing readers to participate physically the problem solving. 
I wrote about Herve Tullet as the master of this approach with PRESS HERE and MIX IT UP, here. 
Beyond the slightly wacky story and play on words (the dog ate my book), the concept of a book gutter consuming everything that approaches it from left to right is an interesting way to open a discussion of concepts of book and of correct labels for the technical structures of books. That includes a discussion of the role of endpapers in predicting and enhancing picture book meaning.
While the story itself is fun, even giggle-worthy, I imagine some young children becoming distracted by several glitches in logic/story. I'm not sure what is says about me, but I was distracted by these, too. 
First, the left-to-right pattern and "gutter gobble" is broken late in the story when the narrator/Bella moves right to left to look for the lost elements. Compound that with the question of how she made it to the right spread anyway if the gutter was so all-consuming. Add to that:
How she was able to get a note OUT of the gutter, but couldn't get out herself? 
When the note came out it stayed on the LEFT spread rather than the right.
Finally, the solution was so directly linked to Tullet's interactive creations that anyone familiar with those titles will compare them (a good thing for kids to do) but might find this one a tad unimaginative. 
Until, that is, the surprise effect on the dog is seen in the final pages. 
Youngest will adore this, but don't miss the chance to use it with older readers for those meta-book discussions.

Two Lions Publishing. 2014

Next up is YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL, written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher WeyantWith only 90+ words in total, and the full extent of vocabulary used at fewer than thirty words from the very earliest sight vocabulary lists, this recent release has managed to achieve the Seuss-like magic. It provides families and emerging readers with a "read-it-again" story that is jam-packed with humor, personality, and layers of bonus benefits. A story like this is an authentic way for kids to explore basic math concepts (big-small), language concepts (use of "not" to reverse statements, opposites, compare and contrast, descriptive attributes/adjectives), and social dynamics (debate vs. physical confrontations, communities, similarities and differences, and tendencies to socialize with "likes").
Even more impressive is this book's effective use of humor and image to provide a lovable example of text/image storytelling, circle stories, visual narratives, predictions/confirmations, and other essential book concepts.
I rarely compare any picture book to Seuss because his body of work stands apart from any other in its timeless and universal appeal. I AM (NOT) SMALL is even more impressive in approaching similar status because its writer and illustrator are not the same. In that sense the degree to which the text and concepts and images are essential to the others amazes me. 
This is a book that should be shared with every nonreader or emerging reader, but tit also has a place in classrooms and lives of much older kids. Its a keeper, and when kids wear it out, replace it. PLEASE.

If anyone is keeping score of my promises, the two titles still to come will be posted within the week. Unless I'm swallowed by a book first.

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