Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! by Steve Patschke

Available on Amazon

Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! is perhaps the most fun book I’ve read in a quite some time. It’s full of suspense, and silly giggles, and play-acting, and all sorts of fun. My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The premise is simple. Four friends find a strange black box with strange, cryptic warnings on it – “Don’t Look At It, Don’t Touch It, Don’t Open It!”. Of course, their curiosity insists they must look at it, must touch it, must open it, whereupon they discover a mysterious item and more cryptic warnings. This happens over and over again (there’s that repetition that small kids love) until at the last….

No, I’m not going to tell you the ending. Suffice it to say that it’s a happy one, suitable for children.

This is a great book for giving kids a bit of experience with suspense. It could be a bit spooky — in fact, my daughter got surprised by just how spooky. She’d had great fun with the book when mama read it, so she settled down to read it again herself just before bed. Without mama there to make it fun, she got a little freaked out and ended up having a hard time getting to sleep that night. Lesson learned – this is a book best read in the daylight.

So have fun with reading it out loud. Do your best creepy-scary voice, and make it comical. Show your kids that it’s fun sometimes to get just a little scared, because that makes the “boo!” all the more exciting.

Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! by Steve Patschke, illustrated by Julie Durrell. Troll Communications, 1999.

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First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Sarah Jane Hartwell does NOT want to get up for the first day at her new school. She wants to stay home, safely in her bed, but her dad insists she go. On the way, Sarah is very nervous; in fact, she starts to feel sick. Her dad lovingly pushes her out of the car, and the school principal is there to show her to her room. The dreaded moment comes at last, the principal introduces her to her class…. Sarah Jane is the new teacher!

I loved this book from start. It’s so cleverly done, my kids never guessed that Sarah Jane was a grownup. They were simply tickled by the idea that a grownup could be nervous about meeting THEM! I can easily see this as a jumping-off point for helping a child who is fearful of starting school — what better way to conquer your nerves than by helping someone else with theirs?

As far as readability, First Day Jitters sits squarely in the middle of the bookshelf. The book is aimed at slightly older children, so it has no infectious rhyme or meter. Perhaps the best aspect of the text is the complete familiarity of Sarah Jane’s excuses and complaints — and of course, her dad’s predictable response to them! The illustrations are attractively done, but very chaotic-feeling. They suit the mood of the story well, but can be a bit overwhelming.

A book well-suited to a nervous or uncertain child; a nice change from the common “everything will be okay and you’ll make lots of friends” type of first-day-of-school book.

Available on Amazon

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000.

Emily’s First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells

Emily races off to her first day of school “too excited to cry”. Once there, she learns that her class will be making “number friends” – learning one new number every day, all the way up to 100. Frankly, Emily and her friends don’t believe they’ll EVER get to 100.

Emily’s First 100 Days of School is a book that’s a bit hard to catalog. It’s about school, true. It’s also about finding numbers in the everyday world surrounding us. It’s about a lot of small vignettes of life that may be new to children, such as lost luggage, Route 66, friends moving away, vegetable Jell-O, and ice fishing. It’s this latter aspect that provides the greatest amount of repeat-reading interest. I found it difficult to read through two whole pages without stopping to explain some new item. In fact, it took us several days to get through all 100 Days. That’s okay, though, as it makes good practice for getting ready for chapter books. I could also see Emily’s First 100 Days making a good bedtime book, because of that continuity.

The text isn’t scintillating, but it is effective and clear. The illustrations are recognizably Rosemary Wells, with colored pencil drawings of animals in human guise.

My favorite aspect of this book is the way it places “going to school” directly into a child’s familiar daily routine. School isn’t a strange new place full of scary new things, but it’s a new extension of what is comfortable and familiar. For every brand-new activity or idea, there is one that is so common as to be unnoticeable, like picking vegetables from the garden, big sisters, birthday flowers, and cookies.

Even better, Wells’ stated aim is to make children aware that math isn’t a boring subject that’s restricted to the schooldesk. The point of the book is to make children aware of how useful, indeed vital, numbers are to our life. In that, it succeeds admirably.

Available on Amazon

Emily’s First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells. Hyperion Books, 2005.

Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters

It’s late, and the hardware store is closed for the night. Except for one… Frankie, the cat. At first, Frankie “does chores”, usually making more of a mess than he helps. Then Frankie spots an intruder – a mouse – and his real work begins!

So the story line isn’t scintillating. It’s funny enough for a kid. Better yet, the artwork is a mix of artwork and real-life photography, which my kids found very appealing. There’s a bit of counting 1-to-10, but it’s not integral to the text. All in all, a fun little story, one the kids asked for several times over the course of the week, but not exceptional.

Oh, and the intruder mouse? Safely chased out the back door. Nobody gets eaten in this story, for the sake of the tenderhearted.

Available on Amazon

Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Jennifer Taylor. Greenwillow Books, 2010.

If A Chicken Stayed For Supper by Carrie Weston

Mommy Fox kisses her five little foxes goodbye, promising to bring home chicken for supper. After a while, the kits get tired of waiting in the den and go outside to play in the dark. They run into a problem when one kit disappears, and after much wailing and crying are finally helped out by a kindly neighbor – Mother Hen. The kits talk her into taking them safely back to their den, where they find Mommy Fox waiting, and no chicken supper to eat. How will they repay Mother Hen’s kindness — by serving her up for supper?

If A Chicken Stayed For Supper surprises you with that little dilemma at the end. Up until that point, it’s simply a fun story of children who get into trouble and scare themselves when they disobey Mommy’s rules. The whole “missing kit” problem is an exercise in counting, and it’s fun to help a child figure out what they’re doing wrong. My kids certainly love it when they can “be smarter” than a story’s character. Eventually Mother Hen gets them all safely home, and suddenly there’s this new tension of a predator-prey encounter. In fact, I definitely recommend you make sure your child understands that when Mommy Fox promised to “bring home chicken for supper” that she’s going off to hunt — if a child doesn’t understand that part, the final resolution won’t be as understandable.

Can we draw from¬† the eventual dinner party — vegetable soup served to chickens and foxes alike — a message that vegetarianism is good? Perhaps, though I’d say that’s a stretch. A more accurate moral would be the innocence of children bringing fighting adults together, but even that exaggerates what the story actually says. There’s no indication that the meal is anything more than a temporary truce, a momentary accord. I actually appreciated that — it doesn’t go for the “easy answer”.

So, what did the kids think of it? Simple fun. It’s colorful, well paced, has a silly little puzzle to figure out, and a nice warm ending. They don’t need more than that to enjoy a story.

Available on Amazon

If A Chicken Stayed For Supper by Carrie Weston, illustrated by Sophie Fatus. Holiday House, 2007.

Tiggy Tiger Brave Explorer by Claire Freedman

Young Tiggy is out on the prowl, exploring the jungle. He can leap and pounce and prowl, and he’s practicing hard on his growl. He visits lots of his animal friends, who show him the brave things they do as well. Tiggy thinks their antics are a little too scary, and each friend assures him there’s nothing to be afraid of, because Mom is always there for a quick rescue. Eventually Tiggy stumbles across Mr. Grumpy Thumpy Rhinoceros, but he won’t run away. Why? Because Mom will keep him safe!

OK, this is a fun book to read. I simply loved playing up the not-quite-grownup tiger growls. There’s lots of other fun animals, and the way Tiggy is drawn is just adorable. My kids enjoyed it, too. Good action, enough predictability, and of course they had to growl, too. This is a book they’ve asked for more than once.

I’m seriously torn about the advisability of the story line. It’s great to encourage a child to try something new, step out and be a little brave, knowing that a parent won’t let him get hurt. But I really, really don’t like the scene with Tiggy and Mr. Grumpy Thumpy Rhinoceros. All his friends are urging him to run away from the danger, and Tiggy just ignores them, knowing that his mom will deal with the threat. I can think of way too many instances where I *want* the kids to run away from danger.

I’m tagging this book “Preschoolers” because I think there’s a element of conversation needed after the story; discuss when it’s okay to try something scary and when it’s important to simply stay safe.

Available on Amazon

Tiggy Tiger Brave Explorer by Claire Freeman, illustrated by Cecilia Johnson. Barron’s, 2002.

Have You Got My Purr? by Judy West

Kitten wakes up one morning and discovers her purr is missing. Mama tells to just wait, her purr will show up soon. However, Kitten can’t just wait, and she goes out to see which of the animals on the farm might have taken her purr.

Then follows a rather predictable sequence of visiting all the farm animals, good for practicing animal sounds with your child. A pleasant surprise is when Kitten visits Mouse, because she has to be extra careful to show Mouse that she’s hunting for her purr, not her dinner.

By the end of the day, Kitten is worn out, foot sore, and still purr-less. Owl suggests she go home to her mama, and Kitten can’t believe that Mama might have had her purr all along! Alas, it’s not so, but a bit of motherly advice and some warm, tender mama love helps Kitten discover that her purr has been with her all along.

In my opinion, the sweet, tender ending elevates Have You Got My Purr? above the usual farmyard animal stories. It leaves a warm, snuggly feeling, making this book especially suited for bedtime.  A nice book to return to frequently.

Available on Amazon

Have You Got My Purr? by Judy West, illustrated by Tim Warnes. Little Tiger Press, 2000.