Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Picture Books are Not Just For Kids! Part 3

So many of my favorite books are based on lovably mischievous protagonists misbehaving or making trouble in some way, so that's what I'll share with you here in Part 3.  I enjoy reading these stories because they are funny to me and to the kids, but I've recently started feeling the need to explain morality to children to some degree: "Did you see that?  The raccoon is STEALING!!  We wouldn't steal, would we?  We'd pay for our pizza - that's the right thing to do!"  I don't want to take all the fun out of a silly story, but I do hear parents whispering suggestions to their children about what the naughty character could do instead.  It's a fine line, and I'm still learning.

On that note, here are some of my favorite stories of impish characters causing trouble.  Enjoy!

Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin
Why I love it: Probably because the main character is a raccoon who just can't help himself when it comes to the temptations of pizza - especially because the narrator (you) is egging him on.  I love that it almost feels as if it is written more for adults than for children.  It has no real lessons, although plenty of room to start conversations up about right behavior and such. It's funny in a grown-up-kid-humor, slap-stick sort of way.  You could analogize it to the picture book equivalent of super tasty, crave-able cheese puff snacks while books with upstanding characters, a good lesson, or a wider vocabulary would be a meatier, more nutritious dinner.  Another book I enjoy by the Rubin/Salmieri author/illustrator duo is Dragons Love Tacos.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Why I love it: Every time I read this one, I think I know what will happen and then the absurd happens instead, and I laugh out loud.  The protagonist is, of course, another innocently mischievous kid just trying to get his kite out of a tree.  The changing color schemes and the comically expressive illustration style (including silly conversation bubbles that pop up here and there), are just bonuses. This is definitely my favorite book by Jeffers (link).

Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat
Here Comes the Easter Cat, &
Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood
Why I love them: Underwood and her illustrator, Claudia Rueda, beautifully encapsulate the mischievous nature of cats in their main character named Cat.  Not all cats (or naughty protagonists) have a heart of gold under their troublemaker veneer, but it's clear that Cat does in these three books starring him.  With one simple illustration and one or two corresponding sentences occupying each spread, the stories are each a conversation between the narrator - who speaks in first person so that it sounds like the reader is narrating - and Cat.  The reader asks Cat questions and guesses the meaning of his expressions and the signage he uses to communicate (he draws pictures and holds them up because he can't talk).  Each of these books is laugh out loud funny, but my favorite is probably Here Comes Santa Cat, despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of Christmas or Santa. 
Note: Here Comes Valentine Cat was published in December and has been recently added to the catalog.  I can't wait to read it!!

Any recommendations for books containing mischievous characters?  

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