Week of September 11—Learning from NY Times Best Sellers
Monday, September —Two Cats & a Llama
Pete the Cat: Rocking In My School Shoes
By Eric Litwin (aka Mr. Eric)
Illustrated by James Deam
(6th week on the list)
Are you familiar with the Pete the Cat series? HarperCollins is quickly becoming known as the publisher of great series—Fancy Nancy, Pinkalicious, and Pete the Cat. This book is strategically designed to be a perfect release for the beginning of school, but it also has shelf-life beyond that season. Author, Eric Litwin, is a performer who entertains children around the country, records music for kids, and more. So he’s an author with an established platform.
As always, Pete’s shoes are the stars of the shoe, I mean show in this book. A repeating song phrase is used throughout: “I’m rocking my school shoes. I’m rocking in my school shoes. I’m rocking in my school shoes.” Each scene of the book is a different rhyming stanza that presents a riddle. For instance:
Pete is sitting at his desk when his teacher says,
“Come on, Pete, down that hall to a room with books on every wall.”
Then a question is presented: Where is Peter going? A page turn reveals the answer (and no doubt, the listener will be shouting out the answer as they turn the page). All of the school activities are new to Pete, so after he arrives at each new location at school (the library, lunchroom, and playground), another repeating phrase is used:
Does Pete worry? Goodness, no!
After the three scenes, the pace quickens and in a two-page spread we see Pete (and his shoes) enjoying other school activities: singing, painting, adding, and writing. Finally, he heads for home ready to enjoy another day at school tomorrow.
The text is fun and witty. Kids will participate in the reading of the book by answering questions, singing along, and saying repeated phrases along with the reader. The cover of the book advertises a HarperCollins web site where you can hear Mr. Eric sing the tune of Pete’s theme song for the book and watch a brief video which adds another participatory element to the book and extends the fun. Sing along at:
Llama Llama Home with Mama
By Anna Dewdney
(2nd week on the list)
Llama Llama is another series of picture books (in addition to the books, there's also a plush Llama toy). Like most of the Llama Llama books, this one has a universal theme/subject every child (and his mother) can relate to—staying home sick while Mama takes care of you.
The rhyming text follows an A-B-C-B pattern (though the meter is a bit inconsistent). The text is sparse on each page and easy to read. The story has a wonderful flow, engaging rhyme, and warm-hearted illustrations.
Llama Llama begins his day with a sniffle and Mama Llama begins her day by handing over
a tissue. The first of the book is all about Llama Llama’s symptons and Mama’s
responses: sneeze/tissue; feverish/back to bed; resting/bring medicine; feeling light
headed/reads a book. Finally, Llama Llama falls asleep. When he awakes, he is feeling better
and begins to play. Then comes the surprise . . . Mama starts to sneeze. The story then
takes a twist as Mama’s illness grows and Llama Llama’s boredom grows. Then he decides
to take care of his sick Mama and offers tissues, a cup, a pillow, and books to read. The
switch in roles makes for a fun twist and shows a young reader/listener that they can
show compassion to others.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
By Eric Litwin (aka Mr. Eric)
Illustrated by James Dean
(9th week on the list)
Yes, TWO Pete the Cat books in the top three on the best-sellers list. We can hope this means Eric and James are set for retirement! View a live reading of the book by author, Mr. Eric, on YouTube. Follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUubMSfIs-U. When you see the book read aloud, you’ll understand what some editors mean when they say picture books should be performance pieces.
In this Pete book, Pete walks around in his brand-new white shoes and sings,
“I love my white shoes. I love my white shoes. I love my white shoes.”
Then he steps in something (strawberries, blueberries, mud) and a repeating line follows:
And then a question:
What color did it turn his shoes?
Next there is a page turn reveals the color (red, blue, brown) and allows time for the reader/listener to shout out the answer to the question. Pete’s song then changes to match the newest color of his shoes. The pattern is interrupted when Pete steps in water and the color is washed away, but now the shoes are white AND wet. And Pete continues singing with new words to his song.
At the end of the story, the author adds a moral. I don’t mean an implied moral, but a real “the moral of the story is.” But this isn’t one of those preachy, oh-here’s-the-lesson morals. Rather, it is in the same humor and tone as the rest of the story. (You’ll notice in the live reading of the book that the moral of the book has two levels—the listener and the adult get two different, funny messages.)
The moral of Pete’s story is:
No matter what you step in
keep walking along and
singing your song . . .
because it’s all good.
By the way, the HarperCollins’ web site also features a song/mini-movie for this book. Another added feature for anyone who purchases the book.