Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Are You Quite Polite?" and "The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln"

David Catrow is one of my favorite illustrators. His newest collaboration in the Silly Dilly book series with author Alan Katz is Are You Quite Polite? As with yesterday's picture book posts, I just finished a short review for the blog and have decided to add it here as well. But, there is a bonus. In addition to Polite, I bought The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln. No real review, but I will blather a bit in subsequent paragraphs.

Not your traditional book on manners and etiquette, this recent entry in the Silly Dilly book series is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Catrow’s delightfully irreverent watercolor and ink illustrations add just the right touch to each poetic entry and are guaranteed to induce a fit of the giggles. Katz’s limericks are flawlessly set to such well known childhood songs as “Alouette” for Writing Thank-Yous, and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for Quiet in the Library. This is a book that begs to be sung and is a definite starter for lessons on good, and bad, manners.

There are so many hysterical entries in this book it's difficult to pick only one as a favorite. So, I've narrowed my choices to two: Don't Chew Gum in the Classroom (sung to "Take me out to the ballgame") and the obvious librarian selection of Quiet in the Library (sung to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"). As with the other Dilly books, you really can't just read them. Once the song is in your head, and since most of them are very well-known, they have to be sung. After looking through this book, I took a quick look at other titles the library might need to have. One that jumped out at me was The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln. One of the perks of being in charge of a children's literature budget is the opportunity to sometimes buy a book because I just want to. This is one of those books.

A collaboration with Mike Reiss, The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln is a title that does not tell a lie. Bless his heart, poor little Benjy is a child with Abraham Lincoln's head. A quick look at Benjy's parents does explain things to some extent, but he is bound to go through life wearing stove pipe hats and defending himself against school yard bullies. Benjy's parents send him to Kamp What-cha-ma-call-it, "a camp for kids who looked like things." Catrow's illustrations boggle the mind, imagine the child who fits this description, "There was even a kid who looked like the back of a horse. But after a while, you didn't even notice." Everyone makes a friend or two at camp. What keeps this book from becoming a slightly sappy feel good story (no offense intended), is the humor. I read this book this morning and shared it with four students who wanted to know what I was laughing about. As with many of Catrow's illustrations, you have to know your audience and look beneath the surface. Benjy's little brotherlooks like Richard Nixon and has a tape recorder next to him on the blanket. Not everyone would get that detail, or know why it was there.

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