Rita and Whatsit
  • Alternative view 1 of Rita and Whatsit
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Rita and Whatsit

by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod, Olivier Tallec
     
 

Rita is a little girl with a big personality.
Whatsit is a dog without a name.

Rita enjoys dressing up, running around, and being in charge. Whatsit enjoys chewing on things, sleeping, and cheating at checkers. Together, they are perfect friends.

In this, the first book of a new series, Rita is not pleased with any of her birthday presents...until one of

Overview

Rita is a little girl with a big personality.
Whatsit is a dog without a name.

Rita enjoys dressing up, running around, and being in charge. Whatsit enjoys chewing on things, sleeping, and cheating at checkers. Together, they are perfect friends.

In this, the first book of a new series, Rita is not pleased with any of her birthday presents...until one of them starts running away.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Featuring wispy b&w line art with splashes of scarlet, this slight French import introduces a cranky girl who dismisses all her birthday gifts as "too big, too small [or] too medium." Then one package catches Rita's attention when it takes off, bouncing across the room. "Get back here, present, or you'll regret it!" she yells. Finding a dog inside the box, she snarls a second warning: "if you're another stuffed animal, you're going in the trash!" The canine initially ignores his new mistress, whose attempts to name him elicit droll images. The dog's head pokes out of a sock drying on a clothesline as Rita considers calling him Kneesock, and the name Floormop pops into her head as she pushes a mop over the floor (and over the snoozing pup). Rita's scowl melts into a smile as Whatsit wins her over by revealing he can talk. Against white backdrops, Tallec's pencil drawings lend the characters' plenty of emotion and charm, though the text is mostly unremarkable (and Rita's transformation from bratty to bubbly is quite abrupt). Also available: Rita and Whatsit at the Beach. Ages 4-8. (May)

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Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
Come along and spend the day—Rita's way—on her birthday. It may not seem like a nice place to be at first. Rita is quite moody and begins the day in a very bad mood. Her presents do not quite suit her. They are too big, too small, or too medium. However, one present is not too…anything and subsequently bounces across the floor, ribbons and all. Rita threatens the present that it will regret running away. The present holds still long enough to be opened and a fuzzy little dog looks back at Rita. After a few pages of hiding and attempts at being named, the dog has been tickled, shaken, hung in a knee sock and used as a floor mop. Finally, Rita names the dog, much to the dog's delight. The smile reappears on Rita's face, and the now great friends frolic the day away playing with birthday presents and each other, with everyone in a good mood at last. Tallec's illustrations are a perfect complement to the simplicity and charm of the text. The splash of red on the black and white illustrations draws attention to the focal point on each page. The story is just right for dispelling bad moods of little girls, little dogs, and even not-so-little adults. A tale of friendship anyone will enjoy; readers will look forward to other stories about Rita. Reviewer: Elizabeth Young
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Despite moments of inspired writing and appealing pictures, these two titles fail to make a smooth transition into English. In the first title, Rita is in a bad mood, despite it being her birthday. However, when one of her presents runs away, she discovers a talking dog that she names Whatsit and they have a good time. In the second book, Rita and Whatsit go to the beach with very different ideas of fun. After some creative play, there is a role reversal and a cleverly humorous ending. The illustrations are done in black and white with red accents. Rita is a round-headed, shaggy-haired, dot-eyed waif, and Whatsit is distinctly Snoopy-esque, with his large head, long black ears, and small body. The artwork is cartoonish and simple, with expansively white backgrounds containing little more than an umbrella, or a line representing the horizon. These books clearly owe a nod to Ian Falconer's opinionated pig, but something seems to have been lost in translation. The texts lack cohesiveness and have a habit of abruptly changing tense. While lines such as "Rita loves the beach./Whatsit the dog doesn't like it quite so much," matched with a picture of the pup lugging all of the beach gear, show true potential, these derivative titles ultimately miss the mark. The second is better than the first, so perhaps later titles will be worthwhile, but for now, pass on them.—Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Rita is a petulant little girl wearing a flowered red dress for her birthday celebration. Whatsit is a shy, white dog with a red patch over one eye. He arrives as one of Rita's birthday presents, the only present she cares for in her pile of gifts. The simple plot revolves around Rita's getting used to having a pet and trying out various silly names for her pooch. This story, which was originally published in France, reveals its Gallic origins with humor that is droll and understated and a plot that is amusing but not overly hilarious. Rita has both flair and attitude, and Whatsit has charming manners and a certain savoirfaire that indicates he may bring a civilizing influence to bear on his young owner. Tallec's cartoonstyle line drawings are spiced with dashes of bright red and stand out against plain white backgrounds, and he indicates Rita's moods through her expressive eyebrows or shy smile. A companion volume, Rita and Whatsit at the Beach (9780811865517) provides a further look at this charmingly understated duo. (Picture book. 35)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811865500
Publisher:
Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
04/01/2009
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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Meet the Author

Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod was born in Bordeaux, France. He is a teacher, editor, and the author of many books for children and adults. He lives in the suburbs of Paris.

Olivier Tallec has illustrated many books for children. He lives in Paris.

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