The title of Numeroff's (If You Give a Pig a Pancake) uneven collection of verse represents the first line of her opening poem, which goes on to speculate: "Do lions use irons,/ Can chickens read Dickens,/ Do horses take courses,/ Can beavers be weavers...." Unfortunately, its whimsy and lively cadence appear in few of the subsequent poems, all written in the voice of a cheerful girl. Aided considerably by Bowers's (Six Voyages of Pleasant Field Mouse) lifelike oil paintings, the verses do capture the child's likable personality. Yet they come up short in both inventiveness and composition. For instance, despite its kid-pleasing theme, "On Halloween" reads as a lackluster listing of costumes worn by the narrator's friends. On a number of occasions, rhythm falters and rhyme schemes get lost, as in the inaugural stanza of "A Day at the Beach": "This summer when I go to the beach/ I'd like to collect some shells./ I'll string them together and hang them at home/ So when the wind blows they'll sound like bells." Bowers's illustrations provide a narrative through line, incorporating various members of the girl's household as well as images that range from the fanciful (a meticulously clipped poodle slops up pasta, a beaver happily weaves a basket) to the realistic (at bedtime, the girl perches on her bed, hugging her dolls and stuffed animals). This book's graphics will linger in children's memories longer than its verse. Ages 4-8. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This book is filled with poems about a child's life. From special occasions like birthdays and Halloween, to tackling new things like cooking and ice skating, to trips to the museum and the beach, this book explores life from a child's point of view. The end of the book is especially poignant, featuring poems about the close of a child's day—bath time, pajamas, good night rituals, and dreams. Each poem and accompanying illustration are a nice embodiment of family life and the rich treasures found in the simple things we do each day and in the people around us. Children will look at each page as a new revelation of what there is to explore in the world. Bowers' illustrations wonderfully depict the words of the poem. What is especially nice is that the same girl is shown as the "I" in each poem, adding continuity to the various wonderings she has. Numeroff's poetry is imaginative and definitely shows a child's view of the world, her use of rhyme is poor. It is very difficult to read the poems and match the rhythm of the lines so that the rhyme is obvious. Since a major part of children's enjoyment of poetry is in the rhyme, this flaw detracts from her work. 1999, Simon & Schuster, Ages 4 to 9, $15.00. Reviewer: Elizabeth Pabrinkis
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Through her many picture books, Numeroff has proven that she has a unique grasp of a child's perspective. Unfortunately, in this book of poems her keen voice is completely undermined by clunky and uninspired rhyming verse. A young narrator introduces readers to the many aspects of her busy life: her dog, her grandparents, a trip to the museum, being sick in bed. The activities and thoughts portrayed are all on target, but the language is lackluster: "We read from my book/About a house with a ghost/Until it scares us too much,/Then we go have some toast." Each poem reads as if the rhyme had driven the composition, tripping up both the content and the meter. Bowers's warm oil paintings, soft edged and detailed, end up conveying all of the emotion in the book.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Unlike Numeroff's other flights of fancy (If You Give a Pig a Pancake, 1998, etc.), this collection of silly verse starring a bespectacled blonde is uneven, and often forced. "I don't know the answers,/I haven't got a clue./It's just fun to wonder,/Do you do it, too?" The question neither provokes nor inspires the imagination; it just lies there. On Halloween, "This year I'm going as corn on the cob./Making my costume was quite a hard job./I pasted hundreds of squares onto my clothes./I'm covered with them from my head to my toes." A few (too few) of the shorter poems have verve and a funny, childlike sensibility, such as the one about a dog named Sydney: "He's got a million spots./I think it would be fun to try/connecting all his dots." Bowers's oil illustrations have a fuzzy familiarity, exude a natural gaiety, and enliven the imagery of young girl enjoying every waking moment. (Picture book. 4-8)
Laura Numeroff is the author of the best-selling modern classic If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the popular What Mommies Do Best and its sequels. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Tim Bowers began his illustrating career working as an artist for Hallmark Cards. In 1986 he illustrated his first picture book, The Toy Circus by Jan Wahl. Since then, he has illustrated more than twenty books for children. Mr. Bowers lives with his family in Granville, Ohio.
If you give a series-prone author an inch, she'll take a mile -- and fortunately for fans of Laura Numeroff's books, she took her concept and is still running with it. Her aphoristic animal stories show what happens when you give a little something ... and get a big list of follow-up requests.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and its companion titles have become favorites not only of parents, but of teachers who like the books' visual elements and domino-effect storylines. Numeroff's other popular titles, What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best and What Grandpas Do Best/What Grandmas Do Best, are loving paeans to activities shared with adults.
A would-be fashion designer who grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in California with a mini-menagerie of pets, Numeroff's stock in trade is her "silly imagination" and her love of animals. Her versatility as a storyteller has been enhanced by the fact that she works with different illustrators, though it also means that all Numeroff titles may not suit the same reader. Her anthropomorphic stories often capitalize on fantasy, but she also has a knack for rhyme, evident in particular in her books Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers and Chimps Don't Wear Glasses.
Numeroff doesn't seem to run out of ideas for ridiculous situations to put people and animals in, nor does she stop celebrating what's special about family relationships. This is what will keep readers coming back to her titles, series-oriented or not.
Good To Know
Numeroff says her parents instilled a love of science and stamp collecting in her as a child, and she has grown into a collector as an adult. Among her collections: stuffed animals, old photographs, autographed children's books, and Halloween masks.
As a teenager, Numeroff was inspired by her sister to become a fashion designer, leading to her attendance at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for college. "Unfortunately," she says, "I hated everything about the fashion department and I couldn't sew to save my life!" Instead, she took a class on writing and illustrating books for children. Her first effort, about the tallest girl in the third grade, was sold before Numeroff graduated. (Amy for Short is now out of print.)