Sunday, May 16, 2010

Daddy, Papa, and Me

by Leslea Newman, ill. Carol Thompson

Too often, books written with a point or a message or far too earnest, and favour the point above a good story or even a cute snapshot in time. This board book about living with two dads is a delightful exception.

Being a board book, it is slight, as length is necessarily limited in this format. Still, it is a cute look at a day of playing with parents that ends in their exhaustion. We've seen this outline with more conventional families, and this pair of dads is treated no differently, which is what makes it a real winner. The focus is on the loving, the cuteness, and the fun, and the fact that the parents are of the same sex is not even mentioned. It will be, after all, totally normal to another child of a same-sex family, and doesn't need explaining. It's just quite simply nice to have a book that reflects their family.

This is just about the ideal, if you ask me.

My Travelin' Eye

by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Books on wearing glasses, I've seen. I even had one or two as a child, when I wore glasses myself. But a book on something as specific as strabismus, when one or both eyes are not aligned properly, is a new one. Like the author, I had both a misaligned eye and a lazy eye, so this book grabbed my interest at once, and I just had to see how she would treat the subject for kids.

She is pretty happy with her travelin' (wandering) eye, but acknowledges some teasing, as well as a teacher who mentioned to her mother that she might see an ophthalmologist. She covers that visit in detail, and is sent home with an eye patch, a constant companion of my childhood, as well. The goal of strengthening the weaker eye makes for some weird exercises and experiences, as she describes!

Her mom helps her navigate the eye patch fiasco admirably, and in her case, the strengthening really did work well enough for her to g ahead with only her glasses, and with eye apparently now working in tandem.

While I don't think books written to a purpose are always great, I do like this one for a child who is experiencing this. Partly because the voice is upbeat, partly because the author has in fact been there herself and clearly knows how some of this feels, and partly because her mom has some fun ideas, I kind of like it.

It doesn't cover what happens when your eye is more stubborn than hers, but I think that this book if only partly informational, and that it is awfully hard to write about eye surgery without freaking a kid out. As it stands, this book is reassuring and sympthatic, just enough to give the message that no child with strabismus is the only one.

Goodnight Goon:

A Petrifying Parody
by Michael Rex

I had heard about this around Hallowe'en last year, but didn't get my hands on a copy until Hallowe'en had passed. I tripped across it again the other day and thought I should just back up a bit and tell you about it, since hey, some kids are into the creepy all year round!

This is a take-off on the classic Goodnight Moon, but replaces the great green room with a cold grey tomb, and fills it not with the everyday objects of a child's room, but with creepy things that still, somehow, manage to retain a strong influence of the original in the illustrations.

The rhythm works perfectly, a there are just enough similarities (bowl full of mush vs. pot full of goo, for example?) to make this spot-on. The monsters and creepy stuff are drawn in a style that nods to Clement Hurd's illustrations, though are not trying to replicate his work, while they manage to make even the creepiest look a little cute and friendly, so this is accessible even to young kids.

I think, to be honest, that this might just be brilliant.