My oldest daughter is the great compromiser. When she was five, I overheard her arbitrating a dispute between two friends, one who wanted to pretend to be kitties, one who wanted to be princesses. In a phrase that is forever embedded in my mind, my daughter said, “I know! We can be kitty princesses!” Maybe it was her enthusiasm for the idea or just the novelty of combining two such wonderful things, but it worked.
Now perhaps you kids’ lit folks are thinking that I am going to talk about the picture book Kitty Princess. But I faked you out. I wanted to tell you about another picture book that combines two great things. Think pirates. Think dinosaurs. Think Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs.
This new book by Giles Andreae grabbed me with the title and held on with the clever, yet silly, story. Flinn is at school when his teacher sends him into the supply closet for some markers. In the back of the closet he hears a noise, and when he investigates, it’s a real live pirate captain crying. Someone or something has stolen his ship. As Flinn’s friends join him in the closet, the back falls away and they tumble into a real adventure. Only the title will give away what they run into next. You didn’t hear it from me.
The Knight Who Took All Day, by James Mayhew, caught my attention because the state of Virginia has a “Once Upon A Time” theme for the Summer Reading Program, and this looks just right. The illustrations are soft and engaging, and the story is light and fun. If you pay attention, you’ll see that more of the story is going on in the pictures than in the words. I was getting tired of this book sooner than my first grader, and maybe a little punchy, so I added an element to the reading that spiced it up a bit. Words throughout the book are stylized in script (like knight, squire, and princess) and other words are in bold capitals (like DARING and GOLDEN). Since all caps equals shouting in the cyberworld, I shouted these words as I came to them. The kids liked this so much, they started doing it too. Now I had to keep the book even longer, which wasn’t what I was going for, but hey, now my first grader was reading the words TERRIBLE, MARVELOUS, and DRAGON, even if she was yelling them at the top of her little lungs.
I put this next book on my Amazon Wish List without ever reading it, based on the title and cover art. When it finally came to my library, I found that Once Upon A Time, The End (asleep in 60 seconds), by Geoffrey Kloske, was just as funny, as clever, as perfect as I could have imagined. The father is putting his kid to bed, but just wants to get through the bedtime stories as quickly as possible. The stories are all the classics, just shorter. Much, much shorter. And generally with a theme of going to sleep at the end of each one. A great book for kids and parents.
What a perfect compromise. My daughter would certainly approve.