May 28, 2009


Milo’s Special Words. By Charise Mericle Harper. Robin Corey Books. $10.99.

Oh No! Time to Go! A Book of Goodbyes. By Rebecca Doughty. Schwartz & Wade. $15.99.

Oops-a-Daisy! By David Algrim. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. Golden Books. $5.99.

     Kids from the toddler stage through kindergarten or first grade can have fun while learning some basic lessons in manners and proper behavior from any or all of these three books. Milo’s Special Words is the most enjoyably offbeat, although it does pose a potential problem for parents at the end. This is the story of a little boy who wants some milk and demands it from his mother, who is dealing with laundry and does not respond even when Milo asks repeatedly and then screams “MILK!” very loudly. Milo’s sister, Lucy, suggests that Milo use “the special word…that will make Mommy move,” so Milo tries saying “floopindoodle” and “shazam” and other words – but of course nothing works until he says “please.” What makes Milo’s Special Words so much fun is the way Charise Mericle Harper tells the story through wheels and flaps, not just straight narrative. Turn one wheel to see Mommy placing clothes in the laundry basket. Turn another to see each word Milo tries before choosing the right one. Open a flap to see Milo figure out that “please” will work, then fold another flap out to see Mommy rush off to get the milk that Milo wants. And so it goes, with Milo also learning to say “thank you” – a pleasant little lesson. But parents need to watch out – and have an explanation of the limits of politeness ready – before the end of the book. For Milo, now that he has discovered the power of “please,” starts using it to ask for several items revealed in both words and pictures on another of those turning wheels: birthday cake, a magic wand, a pony and a rocket. Now what will Mommy do?” asks Harper at the end of the book. Have your answer prepared – Harper does not provide one.

     Oh No! Time to Go! is about a boy who loves saying hello to friends and relatives but hates saying goodbye. Rebecca Doughty reviews many ways of saying it is time to part, from “toodle-oo” and “kiss-kiss” to “take it easy,” “later, gator,” hand expressions without words, and even a dog’s growl at other dogs. An especially sad goodbye comes near the end of this simply written and simply illustrated book, when the boy’s next-door friend and her family move away: “Don’t be a stranger! Promise you’ll write!/ We watched the van roll out of sight.” But then a new family moves in, with the promise of a new friend to be made, and the boy realizes, as will readers, that goodbye can be the gateway to a new hello – a pleasant message, nicely conveyed.

     Oops-a-Daisy! is a board book that parents of toddlers will find wryly amusing even as toddlers themselves enjoy it. David Algrim’s story – abetted by Rosalind Beardshaw’s illustrations, many on flaps that open and close easily – follows what parents will recognize as an all-too-typical day in a toddler’s life. Daddy asks his little girl to hold her cup of milk with two hands; lift the flap and find out that she did not – the dog is lapping up the spilled milk. Mommy asks her little boy if he needs to use the potty – lift the flap and “Oops-a-Daisy! That’s okay. You can go on the potty next time.” There are unlaced shoes, spilled paint and melting ice cream here, plus super-understanding parents who smile throughout the day and never say anything harsher than “Oops-a-Daisy!” That’s not a bad lesson for adults as well as children – and it is charmingly communicated.

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