THE BEST BOOK TO READ was written by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom, published by Dragonfly Books, 2008, and illustrated by one of my favorites, Michael Garland. The book has approximately 420 words spread over fourteen out of twenty-five pages. Six pages have four lines of text, seven pages have five lines, and one page has six lines.
THE BEST BOOK TO READ opens with a beautiful picture of a school bus dropping a line of children off at the library, so it starts right where the story is to begin—at the library. There is no time wasted showing a character anxious to go to the library.
The first line has two short sentences, “Hooray,” and “It’s a trip to the library today.” Note the rhyme in hooray and today. The next sentence ends in the word bus, which rhymes with the word used in the last line on the page, two lines (but three short sentences) down.
On the third line, two sentences end in rhyme. “We’ve been specially invited. Our class is excited.”
The next page also utilizes rhyme, but not in the first sentence. The second line rhymes with the fourth line, and the third line rhymes with the fifth.
The variation of rhyme placement intrigued me, first annoyingly and then with appreciation. The words on the second page follow a different rhyming pattern than that of the previous page—no rhyme in the first line, but the second and fifth lines end in rhyme, and the third and fourth lines end in rhyme.
Changing up the rhyme placement in this book makes it read more like a story rather than sing-songy verses, because we quickly see that we can’t stick to any specific pattern for the rhymes.
I have to admit that because rhymes on different pages fell in a sequence that didn’t follow a previous sequence, I sometimes tripped on reading in any lyrical way at all.
But the story itself is entertaining. Different pages show what different books are about, one on bugs, one on baking cakes or desserts, one on magic tricks, and another on dinosaurs, and some on other topics. This is a wonderful way to show a child that there is truly a “best book” for every youngster, regardless of different likes. Personally, I’d have to choose THE MAGIC TRICKS by Harry Huckster. I was disappointed to look for this one on Amazon only to see that it doesn’t exist—the titles are made up. I guess I would’ve figured that out had I been interested in the book, MAKE IT YOURSELF, by Martha Muffins, or the book about dogs written by Professor Barker. But I thought Harry Huckster might be a neat pen or stage name by a real author and magician.
I don’t think this will be a problem for children, because each book covers a different interest, and there will be real books on the same topic that grandparents can check out for their little darlings, perhaps some with just as beautiful of pictures.
Michael Garland’s illustrations are animated in such a way as to give life to what’s going on in some of the make-believe books shown, such as showing a boy magician holding a hat with a rabbit jumping out of it. THE BEST BOOK TO READ will definitely entice children to want to make a trip to the library, so, grandparents, I suggest only reading it when you have the spare time to venture downtown.
Just as it would happen in real life, a few children in the story want the same book. The authors address the problem right away, mentioning that often libraries have more than one copy of certain books.
There is also an illustration showing children raising their hands, everyone who wants a library card. I would’ve liked something either said or shown in the illustration about the excitement the children feel when they hold that new card—shiny and smooth—for the first time. I know my kids felt important having their very own library cards.
Still, this is a good picture book and one we can learn from. The neat thing is that children will learn something too, and yet it doesn’t feel or read like any sort of lesson at all.
The same authors wrote THE BEST PLACE TO READ, which was published in 2003 by Dragonfly Books. This first book also used the same illustrator, Michael Garland. The same style is used, but this first book shows a main character traipsing through the house room by room, looking for the best place to read. The table is sticky, springs poke through Grandpa’s chair, and big sister’s stereo makes another room too noisy. Finally, (and adorably), the child settles on Mom’s lap. What a nice and realistic way to settle the dilemma.
Consider the rhyme placement in your picture book and question yourself on the reason behind the decision. Do you want the listener to focus mostly on the lyrical beat, or do you want that focus shared more equally with story content and plot?