July 18, 2013


Sticky, Sticky, Stuck! By Michael Gutch. Illustrated by Steve Björkman. Harper. $17.99.

Ruff! And the Wonderfully Amazing Busy Day. By Caroline Jayne Church. Harper. $17.99.

Everything Goes: Good Night, Trucks—A Bedtime Book. By Brian Biggs. Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. $7.99.

     There is quite a whirlwind of activity in two of these books – making the calm of the third one a real pleasure. Sticky, Sticky, Stuck! is the extremely silly story of an always-sticky girl named Annie whose parents, brother and sister are so busy all the time that they never have time for her. Even when all Annie wants is a snack of her favorite sandwich – peanut butter and honey on white bread – no one has time to help her make it. So Annie has to do it herself – but she is not allowed to use knives, so how will she spread the peanut butter and honey? With her hands, of course! And of course her mother sees what Annie has done and is horrified, with the result that she loudly tells Annie to wash her hands, startling Annie so she falls onto the dog and gets stuck, and then her mother falls onto Annie and the dog and gets stuck, and then – well, whether or not you know the wonderful Grimm fairy tale, “The Golden Goose,” in which more and more people get stuck together as a simpleton walks along carrying a magical goose, resulting in a parade that causes a princess who has never laughed to burst into hysterics, you can imagine where Michael Gutch’s story is going. It’s the same plot, only without the goose or simpleton, without magic, and with firefighters – who are called in a very creative way by the stuck-together family, and who helpfully douse everyone with soap and warm water, only to find out that Annie and her parents and siblings keep re-sticking together each time the firefighters free an arm or a leg. Why? Well, it turns out that there is a great deal to be said for togetherness, even really sticky togetherness, and that ends up being the point of this wonderfully offbeat foray into the joys of sticky messiness (which adults need to be sure their children do not try to copy!). Steve Björkman’s marvelous illustrations fit the super-silly story beautifully, giving each family member real personality – with Annie having the most of all. Real-life families will surely get stuck on (rather than stuck with) this make-believe one.

     But oh my, Annie’s family is not the only one in which everybody is busy, busy, busy! Ruff! And the Wonderfully Amazing Busy Day features a super-busy dog as the central character (the pup in Annie’s family plays a decidedly lesser role). Ruff rushes around all the time doing things, and he loves the pace that he sets for himself. He digs behind his house, pulls up weeds, plants flowers, and polishes and sweeps and generally tidies up everything in his home, humming along as he works and lacking only one thing – “someone to sing with him.” Well, we can’t have that, can we? So Caroline Jayne Church makes sure that when Ruff starts his next project – digging a small pond in the yard – he meets someone. Specifically, the someone is a mouse named Hubble, whose home Ruff inadvertently digs up. Hubble starts heading away to find somewhere else to live, but Ruff stops him by promising to build him a new house – and Hubble decides to stick around, especially when he sees what good work Ruff does. The enterprising and fast-working Ruff is as much fun to watch as is Hubble, who occupies the time by exercising, knitting and playing the trumpet. When Hubble’s house is complete, there still remains the original pond to be dug, but now there are two friends at work, singing together and having a great time. What more could Ruff want? Well, how about someone to live in the pond? And wouldn’t you know it? Someone drops in – really drops in, from the sky – in the form of a small duck named Lottie whose wings were too small to carry her to a new home with the other ducks, and who is now all alone with nowhere to live. Of course, Ruff and Hubble invite Lottie to stay in the newly dug pond, and of course, Lottie accepts, and at the end of this super-busy day, Ruff lies in bed thinking of how “wonderfully amazing” the day was and looking forward to a future with his friends.

     And if your family feels all tuckered out by the frantic pace of those two books, how about something a little slower for bedtime? The Gutch and Church books are for ages 4-8, and Everything Goes: Good Night, Trucks—A Bedtime Book is a board book for up to age four, but still, this is a pleasant way to calm down after some seriously sticky and speedy reading. Brian Biggs’ books are always charming in a simple, straightforward way, and this one is no exception. It is merely a series of scenes of people closing up trucks for the evening and saying good night: a firefighter says good night to a fire truck, a construction worker to a dump truck, the operator of an ice-cream truck puts out a “closed” sign as one last boy customer walks away with a very big two-scoop cone, and so on. The last truck is actually a motor home, and the final scene in the book shows an RV park with several recreational vehicles shut down for the night and no people visible at all. Even if this particular book does not suit a child who has gone through reading about the rather frenetic activities of the Gutch and Church books, it may be useful to find something to slow young family members down before bed. Certainly for kids at the younger end of the age range for the books about Annie and Ruff, the latest entry from Biggs should work as a calming influence so everyone – parents included – can sleep as peacefully as Ruff does.

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