March 04, 2010


Lisa McCue’s Fuzzytails ABC: A Foldout Alphabet Book. Random House. $8.99.

Lisa McCue’s Fuzzytails 123: A Touch-and-Feel Counting Book. Random House. $8.99.

Little Duck Says Quack! Photographs by Phoebe Dunn. Story by Judy Dunn. Random House. $8.99.

Little Puppy Says Woof! Photographs by Phoebe Dunn. Story by Judy Dunn. Random House. $8.99.

     It is the form of presentation more than the content that will attract young children to these books. The two Lisa McCue’s Fuzzytails volumes, for ages 2-5, have content that is ordinary on the face of if: the alphabet and the numbers 1-10 (someday, someone will do a counting book with the numbers -1 to 9; but it would need illustrations by Edward Gorey or Gahan Wilson). In the ABC book, McCue’s Fuzzytails Animal Friends hop, skip, dance, bound and gallop among the letters, with McCue providing suitably alliterative prose: “Iggy the iguana idly inches down his I.” “Our Ollie Octopus is oozing in and out of O.” “Tom Turtle totes a tall green T.” The large-size letters appear in bright colors, each supported by a cavorting animal friend; page backgrounds are otherwise white, so kids stay focused only on the animals and the alphabet. What makes this book special is that it is perforated at front and back, with each page connected to every other one. Detaching the pages at the perforations turns the whole book (minus its covers) into an alphabet wall hanging, with the letters and text (that is, the book’s contents) on one side and the animals and letters without text beaming brightly from the other. Making the book into a wall decoration is a clever way for parents to reinforce its learning message.

     There is a different sort of cleverness in McCue’s 123 book. Here, each page has something special for kids to see or touch – again, with the aim of reinforcing the counting lesson and making it fun. Among the “three bumpy gators,” for example, one has slightly rough, scaly-looking skin to feel. One of the “four merry winter mice” has soft white fur; the number 8 is bright and shining among eight penguins that slip and slide on the ice; and so on. As with the alphabet book, this counting volume is simple, attractive and just different enough to keep young children interested.

     The interest in two books from what Random House calls “The Phoebe Dunn Collection” lies mainly in the photos – plus some sounds, courtesy of big buttons that kids ages 4-6 will enjoy pushing. Dunn (1925-1990) was best known for her “Little Animals” books (The Little Pig, The Little Rabbit, The Little Lamb, and so on); her photos remain charming in these new, abridged board-book editions of The Little Duck (1976) and The Little Puppy (1984). The text by Judy Dunn, Phoebe’s Dunn’s daughter, is straightforward and pleasant. Little Duck shows the duckling hatching and growing up on a farm (there is a particularly nice photo of the duck sitting happily on the family dog); eventually the duck grows to full size and meets a female duck with which to swim. Little Puppy shows a boy named Tim adopting a dog he names Charlie and going through all the basics of life with a puppy: a visit to the vet, some mischief, swimming in the lake, playing in leaves and more. The puppy’s bark, heard when the button is pushed, is weaker and less impressive than the duck’s quack, but in both books, the sounds are just an added attraction to what are essentially simple and gentle stories of everyday life.

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