April 09, 2015


Pinkalicious: Mother’s Day Surprise. By Victoria Kann. HarperFestival. $6.99.

Just Fishing with Grandma. By Gina and Mercer Mayer. HarperFestival. $3.99.

Pete the Cat: Rock On, Mom and Dad! By James Dean. HarperFestival. $6.99.

Splat the Cat: The Big Helper. By J.E. Bright. Illustrations by Loryn Brantz. HarperFestival. $3.99.

     Spring brings with it the obligatory parental holidays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and their approach signals the equally obligatory holiday-themed books for ages 4-8, featuring familiar characters having appropriate adventures. Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious: Mother’s Day Surprise includes, in addition to the story, a poster, two picture frames, and stickers, all with a Mother’s Day theme. The story itself is suitably heartwarming: Pinkalicious wakes up early to make a special surprise for her mother, preparing a yogurt parfait, picking flowers and then writing an acrostic poem on the word “mommy.” But she cannot decide what the “y” should stand for, and after struggling for a while, tired Pinkalicious decides to take a quick nap – and oversleeps. When she does get up, she hears nothing going on in the house, so she decides she can still surprise mommy. But Pinkalicious herself gets the surprise – and the whole family helps complete the poem and make the day special.

     Mother’s Day is for grandmas, too, and Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter has an adventure with his grandmother that could be used as a delightful Mother’s Day story even though it never mentions the holiday. Little Critter wants to go fishing, but his mother and father have other things to do, and so does Grandpa. So Grandma offers to go with him, and the two endure a series of mishaps: they dig for worms but cannot find any (Grandma buys some), their fishing poles are hopelessly tangled (Grandma buys new ones), and they cannot manage to catch anything from their perch on the shore (Grandma rents a canoe). Then Little Critter catches a fish so big that it pulls his new rod and reel out of his hands and out into the lake (Grandma lets him use hers). And then a sudden cloudburst leaves Little Critter and Grandma soaked and sodden – but of course everything works out just fine after the two stop for lunch and order a “special fish fillet sandwich with wiggly fries.” Just Fishing with Grandma may not be a Mother’s Day story, but it is a nice tribute to grandmothers of all sorts – for that day or any day.

     There are aspects of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in James Dean’s Pete the Cat: Rock On, Mom and Dad! Like the Pinkalicious book, this one includes extras: a poster, cards and stickers. Also like that book, it features a central character who sleeps through an alarm – that is how the story starts, with Pete oversleeping and his parents helping him get ready for school on time anyway. This makes Pete realize how much his mom and dad do for him all the time, and he thinks about the fact that he never really thanks them – so he decides to make a surprise for them. But what surprise? All his ideas seem too ordinary: breakfast in bed, housecleaning, mowing the lawn, and so on. Pete asks his big brother, Bob, for advice, and Bob tells him that what matters is not what Pete does but how he does it – it has to be from his heart. So Pete writes his parents a song, and performs it for them, and sure enough, it is “the best surprise ever!” Like Mayer’s Little Critter book about Grandma, this one by Dean is not specifically a tie-in to either parental holiday, much less both of them; but it stands as the sort of appreciation of mother and father that may give young readers ideas of their own about how to celebrate their parents on the designated days – and, one hopes, others.

     Rob Scotton’s Splat the Cat deals with “father” issues in a book that is not actually created by Scotton but that uses his creation aptly. Splat the Cat: The Big Helper starts with a family meeting, at which Splat’s father gives Splat his very own to-do list so he can help keep things humming smoothly. Uh-oh: Splat has “a bad feeling about this.” So he ignores the list – even when his best friend, Seymour the mouse, reminds him of it – and goes back to playing a video game…until Splat’s mother says there will be no TV or video games until the list is completed. So Splat does what the list says in quick, slapdash fashion, making everything in his room even messier rather than straightening it all out. Splat’s dad is predictably disappointed, but instead of getting angry, he suggests that Splat try to make his chores fun. So Splat does just that, imagining he is fishing in the ocean while he makes his bed; thinking of his toys as pirate treasure and his toy box as a treasure chest in which to put them; and pretending to be a jungle explorer while watering his plant. Splat ends up having so much fun that, when his parents say he can go back to his video game, he notices some other chores that need doing, and decides to get them done while imagining a new adventure. It is highly unlikely that Splat’s example will immediately lead kids to do chores eagerly and with enthusiasm – but it can’t hurt to try. After all, the book is amusingly enjoyable, and even if human children do not quite share Splat’s newfound love of putting things away, maybe they could pretend they do – perhaps for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or both.

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