March 03, 2011


Silverlicious. By Victoria Kann. Harper. $17.99.

Pinkalicious en Espaňol. Escrito por Victoria Kann y Elizabeth Kann. Ilustrado por Victoria Kann. Traducido por Adriana Domínguez. Rayo/HarperCollins. $17.99.

Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop. By Devon Kinch. Random House. $16.99.

Jam & Honey. By Melita Morales. Illustrations by Laura J. Bryant. Tricycle Press/Random House. $15.99.

     Girls ages 4-8 will be gently taught and gently amused by new books about crabbiness and money – topics that some parents might argue could be covered in a single book, but here are handled separately. Silverlicious is Victoria Kann’s latest charming adventure of Pinkalicious Pinkerton of Pinktown. But Pinkalicious isn’t very charming in this book. She loses a tooth when she grabs a “chocolicious” cookie from her little brother, Peter, and bites into it – and then she discovers that the cookie tastes awful. Pinkalicious has lost her sweet tooth! Determined to be able to taste sweetness again as soon as possible, she writes a note to Tootheetina, her very own personal tooth fairy – but Tootheetina is busy elsewhere, and sends Cupid in her place to bedeck Pinkalicious’ room with hearts and flowers and red, heart-shaped candies…which “taste like coal,” complains Pinkalicious, stamping her feet in anger even though Peter thinks the candy tastes just fine. For two more nights, Pinkalicious complains and writes notes asking for something really sweet, and for two more nights she gets substitutes rather than Tootheetina. Edgar Easter Bunny shows up one night, and then Elf #351 pays a visit from the North Pole. Kann’s illustrations are hilarious, from the eggs-cellent one of bunnies, Easter eggs and chicks after Edgar visits to the one of candy canes, a Christmas tree, and melting snow after the helpful elf shows up. But it is all wrong, complains Pinkalicious, who makes the sorts of complaint faces that every parent will recognize all too well. Tootheetina does finally show up, leaving behind three silver coins and a note showing Pinkalicious that the sweetness she is missing must come from within, not from what she eats. With that lesson learned, Pinkalicious – and Peter, to whom she has not been very kind – make up and enjoy the silver coins (which are really chocolate) together, and the treat tastes just fine. “From now on I am always going to be as sweet as my sweet tooth,” promises Pinkalicious. Message sent; message received.

     There is less of a message in the original 2006 Pinkalicious, in which the little girl overdoes the pink cupcakes and actually turns pink – and changes colors again and again until she eventually, sensibly, eats green vegetables and counterbalances her pinkness back to a normal flesh color. Hilarious and only mildly preachy, Pinkalicious is now available in a fine Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez. This is not a Spanish-and-English-side-by-side book but a full Spanish translation from start to finish – with the original illustrations well complemented by the Spanish texts. Young Spanish speakers now have the pleasure of comfortably meeting Pinkalicious in all her flawed but delightful glory – esta traducción es muy delicioso.

     The message in Devon Kinch’s Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop is a basic one about earning money. Huge-headed, big-eyed, six-year-old Penny and her pet pig, Iggy, want to give Penny’s grandmother, whose name is Bunny, a birthday party, but parties cost money – how will they manage it? Well, in real-life capitalism, they would have to come up with goods or services to sell, but here, Penny has “a really, really big idea” of another kind: dig through all the “extra stuff” that Grandma Bunny keeps in the attic, and turn the whole place into “the Small Mall.” Bunny decides that she “would love to get rid of all this stuff,” so Penny “bends and lifts [and] cleans and sorts [and] zips back and forth and up and down” getting the attic ready to become a sales floor. Penny comes up with prices for everything, then opens the Small Mall’s doors, and she and Grandma Bunny help the neighbors find interesting items. Penny makes 10 dollars – and the money, consisting of bills and coins of various denominations, is shown clearly, so young readers can add up the total for themselves. Penny brings all the funds to Grandma Bunny…who insists that Penny keep everything. So Penny uses the money to buy 10 cupcakes ($1 each at a neighborhood bakery), then arranges with neighbors to throw a surprise party for her grandmother. The lesson here is delivered with a bit of a heavy hand, but considering the fact that young children rarely get any lessons in how to make and spend money, that is a minor issue. Knowing, from an early age, how money is made and used, may help kids avoid serious pitfalls in later life, and Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop can serve as a pleasant introduction to the whole subject – to be followed up, one hopes, by serious (although age-appropriate) talks between parents and children about family finances.

     The lesson of Jam & Honey is simpler and, as the title suggests, sweeter – which makes sense in a book aimed at the very youngest readers (ages 3-5). The first half of Melita Morales’ story is simply about a little girl who is picking berries that she and her mother will make into jam – and who is afraid of bees. Suddenly, a bee is right there in front of the girl’s face – but she stands still and the bee flies away. The second half of the tale is exactly the same story – from the bee’s point of view. This is quite clever: Morales imagines the bee thinking of going out to get nectar on its own (as the girl is picking berries on her own), and suddenly coming face to face with a huge, scary human being. Laura J. Bryant cleverly uses illustrations in the second half that show the girl and her mother from the bee’s viewpoint – and while the girl thinks happily of “sweet jam on toast for me to eat,” the bee thinks about “sweet honey to fill our honeycomb.” A pleasant little urban adventure (the story takes place in and near a city park), Jam & Honey provides a message of tolerance, of not being afraid of things that seem strange or that you come upon abruptly, of “live and let live” in a simple, nonthreatening form. The gently told story and amusingly anthropomorphic bee make the book a winner for families with girls who are just learning to read and to explore the big world outdoors.

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