Book: You'll Be Sorry
Author: Josh Schneider
Age Range: 3 to 8
It's somewhat surprising that I requested a copy of Josh Schneider's first book, You'll Be Sorry. Because I'm not a fan of "message" books, written to teach children some sort of lesson. And the lesson here is clear from the first line: "Don't hit your brother or you'll be sorry." But what lifts this book away from the legions of message books, and makes it irresistible, is the combination of over the top story and humorous illustrations.
Samantha's parents warn her not to hit her younger brother. They tell her that she'll be sorry. But she doesn't believe them. And she wants to hit him. So she does (though the actual violence takes place off-screen). Her brother starts to cry. And cry. And cry. His voluminous tears unleash a flood of Noah's Ark proportions, with inconveniences large and small.
Sitting in a rowboat, eating soggy crackers, Samantha reflects on the damage that she has wrought:
"Her parents were ignoring her. Her mother had a headache from all the crying, and her father was crabby because he had missed his favorite television program. Still her brother was crying.
He looked so sad."
And Samantha is finally sorry. What makes the lesson work is that it's so ridiculous. Of course a child can't cry enough to flood the town. But the flooding is the epitome of consequences for ill-advised actions. I also like the way that Samantha's parents react. They tell her ahead of time not to do hit her brother, but then they wait the whole thing out. They don't try to comfort the brother. Instead they concentrate on digging out the rowboat. They wait for Samantha to learn, and take, personal responsibility, even at considerable inconvenience to themselves. I love it.
But what really makes this book are Schneider's watercolor and pen and ink illustrations. From the small sketch of a water-filled upside-down umbrella (complete with fish) and recently-emptied boots on the dedication page, we know that we're in for something special. The pictures, in muted colors with lots of watery light green and purple, fill each page, with only small blocks of text for contrast. Every page has some sort of humorous treat. As the house starts to flood, a portrait floats through the hall, face-up, the subject holding a small sign that reads "SOS". The soccer game is canceled because the water is 10 feet deep, and a below-the-surface picture shows sea horses guarding the hidden goal. Samantha's mother looks wistfully at the roof of the house, as she bails out rowboat. And a bird rests on a ruler, floating near the closed school.
You'll Be Sorry is a fun treat for pre-schoolers, a quick read with limited text and wonderful illustrations. It does get a message across about how not to treat younger siblings, but the message is conveyed with humor and sympathy. I think that kids as young as three will be entertained by this title. And I look forward to future offerings by Josh Schneider (who, according to his bio, has never hit his brother).
Publication Date: September 17, 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher