Thursday, January 7, 2010

Series Feature - If You...

I've decided to group reviews together by series if I rarely find an entire series I plan on reading and reviewing.

Laura Numeroff's If You Give.../If You Take... books should (if they aren't already - there seems to be some controversy on that) be considered classics in the world of picture books.

If, by chance, you've never read any of these books, the concept in each book is that if you give [an animal] something, (s)he's going to ask for something else, then something else, and eventually wind up back at what you originally gave him. For instance, in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you give a mouse a cookie so he asks for a glass of milk, the story continues until eventually he winds up looking at the refrigerator and asking for milk, so, of course, he has to ask for a cookie. I like these books because the stories are easy to remember so you can tell the story in a pinch even if you don't have the book. In all books the illustrations are simple, but still colorful and entertaining.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
"he's going to ask for a glass of milk."
I have read this book in 3-5 year old storytimes, and the kids seem to enjoy it and are able to catch on to the concept. One great way I've found to tell this story is to gather the items in the book (cookie, milk carton, straw, napkin, small mirror, nail scissors, small broom, powder box and bandana, small board book, paper and crayons, drawing, pen, and tape) and lay them in front of you as you read the story. Also make sure you get to ask the children what their favorite kind of cookie is.
This is my favorite "If You..." book and is recommended by the publishers for preschool - second grade.

"he'll want some jam to go with it."
Another good "If You..." book, but not my favorite.
I haven't used this book during storytime, but I'd definitely be willing to try if we ever do anything moose or muffin-related.
Disclaimer: I would advise that you make sure the children know it is not a good idea to try to paint anything on the wall, or use bedsheets to clean up paint...
The publishers recommend this book for ages 3 - 7, but I'm not sure if this (muffins and jam) would be something the children would be able to make a connection between.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake
"she'll want some syrup to go with it."
Even with the dirty, homesick pig, this is an enjoyable book (though, again, not as good as the mouse/cookie). The only thing I didn't really like is how the pig decides she's homesick and needs to go visit her family, but then she forgets about it to tap dance. 
Again, the publishers recommend this book for ages 3 - 7. However, I have read this book to a group of 4 - 5 year olds, and when we got to the end where she asks for syrup, I asked what they thought she'd ask for to go with it and I got a bunch of random answers - none of which were pancakes, so I don't think they really understood the idea.

"he'll ask you for some popcorn."
*WARNING* depicts mouse in underwear. Hey, I don't know how PC your library might be. Speaking of which, this is a book that references Christmas, so we aren't allowed to use it for any of our programs. For those of you that may still be lucky enough to do programs for Christmas, a great idea would be to use the mouse-making-ornaments portion of the book as a lead in to your own ornament craft. (Though I'd be very wary of letting young children use loose glitter - maybe glitter glue?) Please let me know how it turns out for you if you use(d) this book.
I was a little distracted by the random popcorn-string-gone-missing, but apart from that, it's just another good Numeroff book; recommended for preschool - second grade by the publishers.

If You Take a Mouse to School
"he'll ask you for your lunchbox."
I thought the mouse filling his lunchbox with cookies was adorable. If your kids are familiar with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, I would definitely recommend pointing this out. There are plenty of other illustrations you can use to ask questions, i.e. Would you really do an experiment like that? or any soccer/basketball/skateboarding question.
While this is another (publisher's recommendation) preschool - second grade book, I can't imagine children under 5 to understand that the mouse must go back to school to get the lunch box. Fortunately, it's very easy for you to ask if they remember where he put the lunchbox to see if that will jog their memory.
I actually thought the ending was quite funny, and if it weren't for the fact that If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is easier to memorize, this one might be my favorite "If You..." story.
*See above review for comment about mouse-in-underwear.*
**I will embarassedly admit that before the end of this blog post, I saw the pencil on the cover and (absentmindedly) tried to brush the pencil off (thinking it was real).

If You Give a Pig a Party
"she's going to ask for some balloons."
This "If You..." book isn't my favorite, but it's not my least favorite either. It's cute (as always), and I like how (unlike in the last Pig book - see above) the issue was resolved and (*spoiler*) the pig did get to have a party at the end.
I thought it was great that Numeroff brought back all of the characters she has used for the party; however, it makes me wonder if If You Give a Moose a Muffin has been her least successful book since the pig and mouse all have multiple books (I know the cat only has one book too, but I'll give the benefit of the doubt and accept that it may be because it has been her most recent book). Seeing the cat from Pig's party get her own book (see below) makes me wonder if the other animals at the party will be written about in the future.
The publisher recommends this book for preschool - second grade. While I haven't read this book during storytime (though we have party week next month, so I'll be sure to try it then), I can see this being one of the more understandable books for all children to make the connection between balloons and parties. If you have any experiences with this book, please share!

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake
"he'll ask for some sprinkles to go with it."
I can't decide how to take the expression on the cat's face when he gets in the water. I am a little puzzled why a cat would get the idea to go in the water at all. I did find it really entertaining that he decides he needs to go to the gym (though I don't understand why, after that workout, he can't row the boat), and I can only imagine what kind of reactions you might get if you asked a group of children to immitate "Karate Cat".
Reading this book during stortime should also (see moose review) come with a few warnings, such as: dumping sprinkles on a cupcake/the floor is a no-no. I haven't tried reading this for a storytime yet, but since I like this series so much, again, I'd love to hear your experience if you've used it.
As always, this book is recommended by the publisher for preschool - second grade.

So, my least favorite? Probably the moose/muffin, because even I can't understand why you would make a connection between muffins and jam. Still, I can't wait to see what animal/activity Numeroff will think up next!

My Rating:

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