A witty picture book shows children how to imitate a bear, monkey, turtle, snake, spider, and dog
How to Be. By Lisa Brown. HarperCollins, 32 pp., $16.89. Ages 2–4.
By Janice Harayda
Is there a toddler or preschooler who doesn’t love to make animal sounds? San Francisco artist Lisa Brown urges 2-to-4-year-olds to take their copycat instincts a step further in this witty picture book about a brother and sister who imitate the behavior of six animals — a bear, monkey, turtle, snake, spider, and dog.
Each spread gives simple directions for acting like one of those creatures, illustrated by amusing line drawings that show how the siblings interpret the instructions. And I defy you to keep a straight face when you see how the two respond to last command on the “How to Be a Dog” pages: “Lick someone.” Oh, are parents and grandparents going to have fun watching children follow the instructions in this book! You might have almost as much fun as they’re going to have licking your elbow.
Best line/picture: Apart from the picture of the brother trying to lick his sister? A command on the “How to Be a Monkey” pages: “Eat with your toes.”
Worst line/picture: None unless you’re so heartless that you believe that children should never – not even once – be allowed to eat with their toes.
Recommendation? A good gift for 2- and 3-year olds. It might especially appeal to children who like the imitative aspects of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. And it has an intergenerational appeal, because it will allow children to show off for their grandparents their impressive ability to slither on their bellies like a snake.
Furthermore: The bold line drawings and minimalist color palette give this book an unusually fresh look. How to Be would fit in well at Museum of Modern Art gift shop. Yet it’s not one of those pretentious books that please adults more than children. Both groups are likely to enjoy it.
Published: May 2006
Links: You can see a spread from this book by going to the HarperCollins children’s site www.harpercollinschildrens.com, searching for How to Be, and clicking on “Look Inside.” Amazon.com hasn’t enabled the “Search Inside the Book” tool (which lets you look inside other books) for this one.
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© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.