Here’s the latest batch of library picture books popular with both the eight- and the three-year-old, the ones that get asked for over and over and over.
OH, NO, Little Dragon! by Jim Averbeck.
Thanks to Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library for this recommendation: Little Dragon loves his flames that go “PHOOSH!” and is sure his mother loves him for them. But when he’s in the bath washing off the soot one day, he splashes himself too hard putting out his Viking bath boat, and his flame goes out. Oh no! How will he get his spark back? This is a sweet story of maternal love, featuring an adorable cartoony dragon with beautifully realistic smoke and flames. Both my kids loved saying “PHOOSH!” along with little dragon.
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin. Art by James Dean.
I get lines of kids asking for Pete the Cat books every September, but I’d not read any until my daughter found this on one of her trips to the library with Daddy and started asking for it at least once a day. Pete is a groovy cat, wearing red sneakers and heading off to school for the first time. At regular intervals, he pulls his electric guitar out of nowhere and sings, “I’m rocking in my school shoes” three times through. There are lots of new situations and people, but Pete the Cat rocks along through it all. The words are simple, the pictures deliberately child-like, resulting in a book full of youthful energy.
Not Last Night But the Night Before by Colin McNaughton. Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark.
Thanks to Ms. S. at work for showing me this one. In this very British-feeling book told mostly in rhyme, our young narrator’s house is invaded by one nursery rhyme or fairy tale character after another. Each in turn knocks on the door, and then rushes in, usually bowling him over in their rush to get up the stairs. Characters include Goldilocks and the three bears, Miss Muffet and the spider, and Punch, Judy, their baby and a crocodile. These last were the only ones that weren’t familiar to my three-year-old daughter (are Punch and Judy shows still popular in Britain?) and so she would have missed the irony of characters known for their violence being the only polite ones in the book. Our hero doesn’t notice that all of the characters that come in are carrying gifts and flowers, and there is a very happy ending.
There are cats in this book. By Viviane Schwarz.
Thanks to Nobodyjones at Did You Ever Stop to Think and Forget to Start Again for this recommendation. There Are Cats in This Book is an interactive book along the lines of, but predating, Press Here. It features three adorable cats: Andre, Moonpie, and Tiny, who talk directly to the reader, asking for the pages to be turned: there’s “lovely tangly yarn” on the next page. There are smaller cut-out pages: you can take the blanket off to discover the cats at the beginning of the book, or help them have a pillow fight later on. I could go on, but you’ll want to find out what happens yourself. Hidden cleverly in the fun, as Nobodyjones points out, is a lesson in how books and narrative work, from the frontispiece that says, “The cats aren’t on this page” to the end, where the reader helps tuck the cats in again. This book was so funny that my colleague and I were laughing out loud on the desk when I first found them. I took them home to my kids; my son loved it so much that he took it in to class, where his teacher read it aloud, and I had kids coming up to me at the end of the day telling me how funny it was.
There are no cats in this book. By Viviane Schwarz. More interactive fun, this time with cats trying to get out of their book.
I found this one on the crowded “SCH” picture book shelves at the library before finding the first in the series. This time, as we come to the opening pages, the cats are busy stuffing important things like yarn and tins of fish into suitcases: they are trying to leave the book, as they want to see the world. The second book is an exercise in metafiction with paper engineering: how can the cats possibly leave a book that’s about them. Moonpie tries to push the edge of the page away, but succeeds only in stretching himself out. All three try jumping out of the book (into the reader’s face), but this effort also fails. Will the cats ever get out of the book? And what will happen to the book itself if they do?