Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.
Author/Illustrator: Simon Puttock/Nadia Shireen
Publisher: Candlewick/Nosy Crow
Genre: Fiction picture book
Themes: New baby/Siblings; Problem-solving
Opening: Mr. and Mrs. Deer had no baby of their own to love and cuddle and read stories to… But, oh! — how they wished that they did! Then one day, the found a bundle on the doorstep. The bundle had a note attached, which said: “I am a dear little baby. Please love me and cuddle me and read me lots and lots of stories.”
Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) When Mr. and Mrs. Deer find a little antlered bundle on the doorstep, Mrs. Deer thinks their wish for a baby has come true; Mr. Deer thinks that the baby is very, very peculiar. It won’t stop roaring, so they ask advice from friends and family, who in turn send them off to fetch what they think the baby needs. But each time Mr. and Mrs. Deer return home from an errand, someone is missing and the baby is still roaring. It takes wise old Granny Bear to spot the problem. The baby’s not a baby – it’s a little monster! A very hungry monster at that. . . .
What makes it great: I always love books where the reader knows (or suspects) something the main characters don’t. This one is a silly and engaging look at life with a new baby — who turns out not to be a baby at all.
What readers notice: My 3-year-old loves pointing out that the hungry little monster has eaten Uncle Duncan, Auntie Agnes, and Doctor Fox who all come to give advice, but then suddenly disappear. At the end, when Mr. and Mrs. Deer adopt a little kitten (which is actually the monster, come back in disguise) she collapses into giggles. My 7-year-old, predictably, loves the giant BURP the monster gives, spitting out all the animals he has eaten and revealing himself as a monster.
What a writer notices: This book has a really effective use of repeated phrases to build tension in the story. For example:
Each time the Deers call on a friend for help, the friend replies with the phrase:
A baby? A dear little baby? I shall come at once!
Each time the Deers are sent away on an errand (fetching milk or diapers), they are told to “run along”
Each time the Deers return to find the friend missing, the phrase is:
How very peculiar! [Friend’s name] had disappeared and the baby was still roaring.
The establishment of this pattern makes it all the more humorous and surprising when the pattern is broken. And the fact that it is broken with a giant burp is just icing on the cake.
Also, it’s a minor point, but I love the way the author named the characters. While some of the animal characters have their animal names (Mr. and Mrs. Deer, Doctor Fox, Granny Bear) others do not (Uncle Duncan is an owl, Auntie Agnes a bunny). This makes the story feel unique.
Links to Resources:
Candlewick provides a wonderful “Story Hour Kit” for this and several other books, including activities for younger and older children, as well as paper cutouts.