April 7, 2013
New kids' books we've been enjoying lately
Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity by Monica Kulling and Esperanca Melo: Before reading this book, we’d thought about its title and speculated as to what the calamity might be, and we were wrong wrong wrong. We hadn’t yet read the first Mister Dash book, so we had no idea that Mister Dash himself would be the picture of calmness and civility while the calamity was everything that happened around him. When Madame Croissant decides to start up a cupcake company, she enlists her faithful hound to help (and makes him wear a baker’s hat, much to his dismay). When the tornado that is Madame Croissant’s granddaughter Daphne enters the mix, there has to be cupcake batter scraped off the ceiling and other calamities averted. In every situation, Mister Dash narrowly saves the day, and all are overjoyed in the end to find the cupcake business is a go-go! Especially since Mister Dash is finally allowed to take his silly hat off.
Oy. Feh. So? by Cary Fagan and Gary Clement: I don’t think I’m the target audience for this book, as no one in my family has ever used a lot of Yiddish, but I do know about great aunts and uncles, the kind who would visit on Sundays in enormous automobiles. These relatives at a remove who plant themselves on the couch and aren’t so interested in the children. In Oy. Feh. So?, Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah and Uncle Sam aren’t interested in anything, all attempts at conversation resulting in their respective signature exclamations, and so one Sunday the kids decide they aren’t going to take it and go to extremes to rattle their unshakably miserable rellies. It’s a funny story that appeals to a similar nostalgia as Barbara Reid’s The Party, the humour underlined by Clement’s cartoon illustrations.
Hoogie in the Middle by Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffiths: This was one book that did not immediately appeal to my adult kid-lit-loving sensibilities, but I knew something was up when Harriet suddenly couldn’t stop talking about it. (“You be Pumpkin, you be Tweezle, and I’ll be Hoogie,” she’d demand of whoever was in her company, or a variation on this.) I asked her why she liked the book so much: “Because Hoogie’s a monster and she’s nice,” Harriet answered, and I liked that answer. In her family of Muppet-like creatures, Hoogie is not the biggest or the smallest, but she’s stuck in the middle instead–ever too big or too little. Until one day her frustration gets too much and Hoogie explodes, and then her parents take the time and let her know how much they love their monster in the middle (“You’re the sun in the middle of the solar system,” says Dad, as they swing her through the air. “The pearl in the middle of the oyster,” says Mom as they catch her in their arms.”) This is a good teaching book for any middle child, but also (I have a feeling!) useful for any little one suffering a bit of family displacement. Hoogie will help them to articulate their feelings and know they aren’t alone.
What a Party! by Ana Maria Machado and Helene Moreau: This is a bit like those If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books, but so much more interesting, and involving birthday parties, which is a pretty important topic if you happen to be four years old. The book posits what might happen if your mom, in a moment of distraction, tells you to invite “anyone you’d like” to your upcoming party, and then you invite everyone you know, who happens to also resemble the United Nations, and each friend brings a party food from their own particular culture and pets (which are another topic of fascination if you’re four). The party becomes a glorious celebration of delicious food, live music, salsa dancers and a raggae band, and then it goes all night long (which could happen “especially if the parents drop in and start having drinks and chatting instead of going home”). What a Party! is the perfect recipe for the “craziest, wildest, funnest party ever”, Moreau’s illustrations capturing the festive mood perfectly.