I’m Sad

Title: I’m Sad
Author: Michael Ian Black
Illustrator: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018

 

When I was a kid, my parents had, like, two parenting books to read. One of them was Dr. Spock. The other was a book of parenting jokes that someone had given to them when I was born. So they didn’t have a whole lot to go on other than well-meaning advice, gut feelings and very sparse expert guidance. These days, it’s a whole different story. There are eighty-billion parenting books, all telling you the many ways you might permanently psychologically damage your offspring.

And man, it’s stressful. That’s why I eat chocolate, people. That’s why.

What does any of this have to do with today’s book? Well, one of the things many of the parenting books (and websites and Twitter feeds and blogs…) talk about is how to deal with your children’s emotions. And sadness? That’s a biggie. Don’t mess that one up or you’re in trouble.

I TRY my very best to be okay with my kiddos not being happy all the time. Actually, if they’re mad or tired or curious or any number of other emotions, I’m absolutely fine with it. But sadness? I think it’s the default reaction of most people to want to just whisk it away. Just…don’t BE sad! It’s a message we get all the time: happy is good. Sad is bad. But is it? No, of course not. It’s normal and natural and sometimes totally, completely, 100% warranted (note to my children: not getting the Shopkins you wanted doesn’t fall into this category…at least not for more than five minutes).

That’s why I really, really liked I’m Sad by the wonderfully talented Michael Ian Black and artiste extraordinaire, Debbie Ridpath Ohi. This book follows characters we met in I’m Bored – the little girl, the flamingo and (my favourite) the potato. In I’m Sad, the flamingo is feeling blue. She* doesn’t really explain why, but she just IS. And you know what? The little girl and the potato are absolutely fine with that. Sure, they try to cheer her up, but when it becomes obvious that whatever’s on the flamingo’s mind isn’t going to go away easily, they’re fine with her mood.  They reassure her that they still like her (well, except the potato…who makes a joke that DOES get the flamingo giggling and makes her feel a bit better). They accept her for whatever she is feeling.

Which is such a tremendously powerful message for kids to hear. It’s fine to feel what you’re feeling. And maybe it’ll go away quickly, and maybe not. But your friends are there for you, regardless.

And the art. Can we talk about it for a second? It’s great. I love Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s style. It feels a bit reminiscent of Mo Willems’ art, in its simplicity and how well it conveys the characters’ emotions. The colour palette is lovely and the pictures are just a lot of fun to look at. I also like the different font styles used for each characters’ dialogue.

My kids had the following thoughts (this is after the fifth reading, mind you. Our library books get a good workout.):

Lily: “The best part was when the potato made the flamingo laugh. That was so friendly.”

Vivi: “The whole book is great. Sadness is something kids should talk about.”

And, of course, not to be left out, Karl: “The ending was really strong. And I really liked the art.”

As for me, I think I’m Sad is a gentle, kind, reassuring read. It’s the type of book all kids need to read. We will definitely be getting a copy to add to our collection!

Lily’s Rating: All the flamingos
Vivi’s Rating: A+
Mama’s Rating: Five potatoes out of five

 

*Note: we don’t really know the gender of the flamingo, but in this house…everything is a girl. Sorry, Karl.

Harold and Hog Pretend For Real!

 

Title: Harold and Hog Pretend For Real!
Author/Illustrator Dan Santat (with intro/extro by Mo Willems)
Published: Hyperion Books for Children, 2019

 

I have a confession to make. I know it’s not something most parents admit to, but I have my favourites. My favourite picture books, that is. Those that I like, I read to my kiddos frequently (mostly Lily these days). Those that I do not like…well…they are shuffled unceremoniously to the back of the bookshelf/shuttled quickly back to the library, never to be spoken of again. (Until one of the kids asks about the book, and I’m all like, “Berenstain Bears Save Christmas? Hm. You must’ve read that at your grandparents’ house. I’ve never heard of that ridiculously long, poorly-rhymed, annoying to read monstrosity.”)

Fortunately, today is about a book I really like. It’s by two of my all-time favourite children’s book author/illustrators, Mo Willems and Dan Santat. As you might remember from here, here, here, here, and here, I’m a bit of a Mo & Dan fan. (Again, really trying to make “Fantat” happen, but it’s just not sticking. Yet.) Today’s book is super-funny on its own, an even funnier if you happen to be familiar (or excessively familiar, as I am) with the Elephant and Piggie series (by Mo Willems).

As I’ve likely mentioned before, we own every single Elephant and Piggie book EVER written. Even after years of reading and re-reading, they are still some of Lily’s favourites (and mine too). I always keep an eye out for new Mo Willems stories because they never, ever fail to impress (stay tuned for a review of the brand-new Pigeon book next week). When I saw that Mr. Willems teamed up with Mr. Santat for an Elephant and Piggie Love Reading story, I had to order the book.

On Prime. for next day delivery. Because, OMG. I couldn’t wait.

I mean, the kids couldn’t wait.

Ahem.

Here’s the reacap! The book starts with Elephant Gerald and Piggie finding a book about an elephant and a pig (that would be Harold, the elephant, and Hog, the pig). They decide to read the book, and Harold and Hog see Elephant and Piggie from within their book. They are huge E&P fans and are all “OMG, it’s them!” Harold thinks it might be a fun idea to pretend to BE Gerald and Piggie.

Harold, being an elephant, decides he’ll play the part of Gerald. And Hog, being of the porcine persuasion, gets cast as Piggie.  And that would be all well and good, except for one thing:

In her heart, Hog is a total Gerald. And Harold is a total Piggie. Harold is fun! He’s carefree! He’s imaginative! Hog is cautious. She’s careful. She’s generally concerned.

It looks like the pretending is a total bust, until they realize something: Harold can pretend to be Piggie, and Hog can pretend to be Gerald! They have a terrific time, and the book ends with Piggie and Gerald pretending to be Harold and Hog.

Whew, that sounded way more complicated than the story actually is.

The art is, as you might expect, perfection. I think Dan Santat is probably the best illustrator out there right now. Everything he does is just wonderful. The style of Hog and Harold is hilarious, because it’s really just a more detailed version of Elephant and Piggie.

The story does ‘pretending’ really, really well. I wasn’t sure Lily would get it totally, but she completely did. She loved it. She has asked for the story at least ten times since it arrived at our house.

Also, can I just admit something? I try to act like I’m Piggie/Harold, but in my heart I’m a total Gerald/Hog. #anxious4lyfe!

And one more thing? I love Mo and Dan separately, but together they’re even better.

Mama’s review: 5/5, A+, always.

Lily’s review: “I love it! Read it again!”

Vivi’s review (she saw me reviewing the book and decided to read it herself): “I just love this the book. I think it’s really funny that Harold and Hog see Elephant and Piggie outside of their book. That’s why I like it.”