Monday, January 9, 2012

Picture Book Comparison

My 3 year old son received Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (1999) and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (2011) for Christmas.

Their similarities didn't occur to me until I read them back to back. So far my son has demanded me to do so on subsequent readings.

Bark, George was a staple storytime activity. We were lucky to have a fantastic children's librarian who turned a stuffed dog into a puppet that swallowed tiny stuffed animals (cat, duck, pig, cow). It was just amazing.

Poor George is a puppy that can't bark: he can meow, quack, oink, and moo. Mother takes him to the vet who reaches down into George's mouth to pull out each animal. It's outrageous and I love to see this surprise on the faces of my kids. But there's one more surprise. In the end, George is asked to bark one more time... and he says "hello". WHA?

(pause) Then my son gasped, "He ate a person!?"
Me: "He's probably just saying "hello" to all those people on the street. He's being polite."
Him: "He ate a person."

I Want My Hat Back is distinguished as one of the most talked about picture books of 2011. Bear is looking for his hat. He asks all the animals if they have seen it, but they have not. When a deer asks the bear to describe the hat he realizes that he has seen his hat on the head of one of the previous animals. Bear confronts this animal, there's an intense staring contest between the two, and then we see bear sitting on the clump of grass that formerly held the thief animal. It's an intense scene. As an adult do you interject with a note on the laws of nature? Or do you let the story play itself out to the reader? My son giggles that "bear squished him with his butt!" even though two pages later bear mentions eating the offender. I think one of the best aspects of this type of picture book is that the reader brings his or her own information to the story. My son likes it now as it is. When he gets the joke later on, I hope he enjoys it all over again in a new way.

Also, the first time I read I Want My Hat Back, my 8 year old was there, too. I wondered if he would spoil the surprise of the animal with the hat, but he missed it himself. He had the same reaction bear had when it was figured out. He, of course, finds it totally hysterical that bear eats the thief. "I can't believe he ATE him! Ahaha hahahaa ha!"

Give your audience a really interesting storytime and pair this with Wolves by (the amazing) Emily Gravett. Heh. "Alternate vegetarian ending." Yes, we own that book as well.

Below is the Westin Woods/Scholastic video of Bark, George (not one of their best) and the book trailer for I Want My Hat Back.


Bibliovore said...

Another book with this edge to it is "I'd Really Like to Eat a Child" by Sylviane Donnio.

It's always funny to see which kids in a group get the end of "Bark George" and which ones need a little prompting. I haven't read "I Want My Hat Back" to a group yet, but I want to see the reactions when I do!

joanna said...

Oh! Thanks for the book suggestion of I'd Really Like to Eat a Child.

I am interested to hear how I Want My Hat Back goes over with a group. I usually read Wolves to my elementary classes.

Madigan McGillicuddy said...

Speaking of books where one of the characters gets eaten as the punchline - I love The Hungry Hen by Richard Waring. Fantastic for storytime... sometimes the kids really get into it, and other times, they'll stare up at me like, "Hey, what just happened?"

joanna said...

I forgot about The Hungry Hen! I know I have a storytime list somewhere but I did read that one, probably with Wolves, as part of a "Gotcha!" themed storytime. Great reminder. Thanks!

mary kinser said...

Such great suggestions! My son loves "Bark George" -- he laughs himself silly at the end. I haven't read "I Want My Hat Back" to him yet though, might just have to try it out!

joanna said...

Hi, Mary, I hope he likes it.

In other news, I just realized that I made the mistake of calling the book "I Want My Hat" versus the title "I Want My Hat Back." I changed it in the blog. Oops.

Storyteller Cheryl said...

Love your site - so happy to trip upon it!

I'm a professional performance storyteller for children, and last year, while performing at an Elementary they ask me to come read a book to their Kinders during their snack time, as the Kinder's schedule didn't fit the show time. Well, they had the 'I Want My Hat Back' for me to read.

I thought it was a very cool read - but two of the kids shouted, "The Bear squished him flat!" I wasn't sure if I should pause to explain, but was glad I didn't as I read on. But, one of the kids said afterwards, in discussion, that she was a vegetarian and was going to believe that the bear 'squished' not 'ate' him. I nearly fell out of my seat laughing!

joanna said...

I'm happy to read about someone using it in a storytime. I also love the vegetarian reaction - adorable!

I also remembered another one of my "gotcha!" books - "Penguin" by Polly Dunbar. This one has a decidedly sweet and endearing ending. There's just one dramatic bump beforehand.

KateCoombs said...

I'm with your son: "He ate a person." He might also like I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio and Dorothee de Monfried, not to mention Beware of the Frog by William Bee.

joanna said...

2 suggestions for I'd Really Like to Eat a Child. I have that one requested through ILL since my library does not own it. But they do have Beware of the Frog, which I am strongly suspicious of having read. Thanks for the suggestions, KateCoombs!

Patti said...

Beware of the Frog by William Bee is so fantastic! I love William Bee!