Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Perfect Present

I’m so excited that I’ve started this blog and can now participate in a Friday feature that I’ve enjoyed reading for a while now: Perfect Picture Book Fridays, brought to us by the lovely Susanna Leonard Hill. Visit her site to see many more picture book reviews. I’ve also added my own little twist to these reviews – What a Reader Notices, and What a Writer Notices. I’m always analyzing stories — what draws readers in and keeps them interested, and wanted to explore that in these reviews. And so without babbling on any further, here’s my first review…

Title: The Perfect Present

Author/Illustrator: Fiona Robertson

Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons

Year: 2011

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3+

Themes: Friendship; sibling rivalry

Opening: Henry was too excited to sleep. He was thinking about the enormous pile of birthday presents waiting for him downstairs and trying to guess what Spot was going to give him.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) From the moment Spot answered Henry’s ad in the newspaper, the two have been inseparable. But then on Henry’s birthday, he gets a dog–the pet he’s always wanted! Feeling left out, Spot leaves for his old home, and gets caught in a terrible storm. Henry is devastated when he finds Spot missing and is quickly hot on his trail. With the help of his new dog, Henry saves him and Spot finds out that even with a new pet in his life, Henry would never let his best friend go.

What makes it great: It’s a simple story where every detail is important. I loved the unexpected plot twists.

What readers notice: Both kids, 7 and 3, were enthralled with this story. They loved the drama – when Spot leave Henry and goes out into the night. They spent a long time looking at the picture of Spot, stuck in the middle of the river with lightening striking nearby. As an arbiter of sibling disputes, I liked how this story connects, in a subtle way, to the arrival of a new sibling.

What a writer notices: The plot twists are really great – as a reader you are compelled to keep reading because you have no idea what is going to happen next. It starts off as a somewhat ordinary story: Henry is looking forward to his birthday and excitedly opens his presents, one of which turns out to be a new puppy. From there, one would never guess that Spot would run away, that it would rain, that a river would flood, that Spot would become trapped in the rising water, that the puppy would try to rescue him, and then require rescuing himself – or how that rescue would take place (which I won’t give away). It reminds me of that advice to throw out the first few ideas that come to mind when working on a story – if it’s the first thing that comes to your mind, it’s probably the first thing that comes to everyone else’s, too. Create something unexpected, instead.

Links to Resources: I didn’t find any online resources for this book. I think a great extension activity would be a creative writing or storytelling exercise. My son has a fun game called Story Cubes, where you roll dice and try to tell a story that incorporates the characters, events, and other story elements depicted on the dice. This leads to some great twists and turns in the story, just like the unexpected twists in The Perfect Present.

29 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Perfect Present

  1. Cathy Ballou Mealey says:

    I’ll have to look for this Carrie – great review! I love giving kids books as birthday/holiday gifts. What could be more appropriate than a book titled THE PERFECT PRESENT? I can just imagine the Thank You notes now: Dear Aunt Cathy, Thank you for THE PERFECT PRESENT!

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    Carrie, I’m so happy you joined us! The Perfect Present sounds like a a fun read. You wrote an excellent review and I enjoyed your insights. Cathy’s idea is great! Our grandchildren always receive books from us — Christmas and birthdays — have to balance the gift pile. No surprises from us. So, this definitely will go to a great granddaughter.

  3. Beth Stilborn says:

    Hope this comment goes through, because I really, really want to say welcome to the blogging community and especially to PPBF. It’s so good to have you join us!

    This book sounds great, and it seems as though it would be excellent for using in many new thing/old thing situations, such as the arrival of a new baby in the family.

    I also want to say that I like your “what readers notice” and “what a writer notices” segments. Very good idea. You may find some of us “borrowing” that idea for our own PPBF posts in the future.

    Again, great to have you with us Carrie! May your blogging life be happy and your writing life be rewarding.

  4. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I didn’t even realize you’d started this blog until right this very second Carrie! I am following! 🙂 And I love your pick for today – it looks fabulous! I agree with Beth – seems like a book that would be useful in a lot of new situations. And I really like your addition of what readers and writers notice. One of the purposes of PPBF is to highlight books that are great examples for writers studying the craft, so your addition will be especially helpful for that!

    • Carrie Finison says:

      Thank you, Susanna, that means a lot. I’ve been practice-blogging for a little while, but only just shared it today — in honor of PPBF (fab. invention, by the way). Good to hear from you.

  5. viviankirkfield says:

    Hi Carrie…I didn’t realize you hadn’t had a blog before…so when I saw your comment on my post, I hurried over to see yours, thinking I was late to the party of following you. How glad I am that I haven’t missed any wonderful posts…because it seems you have just started. I’ll definitely be followng you! Thank you for your lovey comments, BTW.
    Fantastic review…and I agree with EVERYONE…the “what the reader” “what the writer” is an awesome addition to a review!
    We are having a ball…took him fishing down at a little dock by a lake-like pond by his house (the pic in Sunday’s post is last year at the same place)…and this time we had worms and we had a school of fish, darting here and there in the water right in front of us, begging to be caught…and quite a few obliged…and I was obliged to hold the wriggling little sunnies to get the hook out and throw them back.
    When I told Jeremy that the group of fish were called a “school”…he asked me, “Which one is the teacher?”…there’s a picture book in that, I just know it!!!!

  6. patientdreamer says:

    Hi Carrie, Welcome to blogging and PPBF, yay! I actually went looking for you to see if you had a blog when you emailed me. Now I know why I couldn’t find you…lol. I saw your post earlier and hoped to get here sooner but was listening to an oline pb webinar intensive till now. This review is excellent and loved what you had to say in the Writer/Reader section, great idea. Loved the book cover and its Theme, beautiful. Thanks for sharing Carrie.

  7. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    It’s a cute one. I put it on hold at my library the moment I saw the title. I love Cathy’s note about the Thank You notes. Now, if kids still send notes … (“Mail? What’s that?”)

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