Smile for Auntie; When A Children's Book Just Gets It
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
As a preschool teacher, I am an avid reader and critic of children's picture books. And when a book is good, The 700th reading is just as exciting as the first.
There are many ways for a picture book to be excellent. Not every book needs to have all of these elements. Just doing one of these spectacularly well will often do the trick.
A good story is always a good idea.
Since picture books are most often read aloud, in a good children's book, the rhythm, cadence, or simply the way the words roll of the tongue can be important. Note: This does not necessarily mean rhyming. Repetition, sentence structure, and word choice all contribute to the rhythm of the story.
Furthermore, some picture books simply play with words and sounds. Hence, the romping good time that is Dr. Seuss.
Illustrations can be a feast for the eyes. When the words and pictures work together to tell the whole story, an entirely different reading experience is created.
Then there are the books that just GET IT. They capture the experience, thoughts, and feelings of their audience. They capture in cute words and pictures and sometimes humor, what it feels like to live in this world. Especially as a small human being who is figuring out how this great big planet and all its people work. Some books go a step farther and capture what it is like to be a grown up caring for the petite human.
Enter, Smile for Auntie, by Diane Paterson.
If you have ever been or known a shy or reticent child, you will be able to relate to this book.
A loving but over eager auntie just wants a smile from her baby niece or nephew.
I get it. Who does not love to connect with a beloved child? Sure, some children give those smiles, away like it's ….like it's.... Well, like it's something free and easily replaced. But for others, new people are questionable. They need to know who the new, unfamiliar creature is, before they can feel comfortable enough to smile. It makes sense. Many adults need some time to get to know people before opening up. Did you ever feel a bit nervous on your first day of work? Slightly uncomfortable when you entered a party where you did not know most people? It's like that, but you have only had a few months to practice what to do with that feeling. Not decades.
Also, everyone is several times your size. And you can't talk.
For some, this is easy, peasy lemon squeeze-y.
For others, it's like this:
Oh my goodness, that poor baby.
That persistent auntie keeps going, but I'll fast forward to the end.
That poor auntie. I wish she knew how to pull back a little, and let that baby come to her. I wish she knew to just follow that baby's gaze, and to see where his interest lay. Then she could slowly engage him.
Of course, we are not thinking all these things while we read.
In fact, I recently read this book to a group of three year old children who were absolutely flummoxed as to why the baby was sad. "Maybe he has a boo-boo," one hypothesized.
But, as we read, we are being entertained by the characters created in the simple drawings, and with the simple words. They are funny. Even (or maybe especially) when you hit an emotional nail on the head, it's always good to have a sense of humor about it.
A quick story about this story:
I have not seen this book in at least 35 years. I remember it from when I was little, and it was my little sister's favorite book. We always had it out from the library, and my parents read it so often, that when I gave this old beat up copy to my sister for her 40th birthday, the whole family was able to join in and read it aloud together. After 35 years!
And that is the power of a good story.
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