The Black Rabbit: Philippa Leathers
Return to Me: Justina Chen

Little Critter Bedtime Stories and We Are Moving: Mercer Mayer

Books: Little Critter Bedtime Stories (6 paperbacks included)
Author: Mercer Mayer
Pages: 24 each
Age Range: 3 - 5

I'd seen Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books around, of course. There are dozens of them. But I'm not sure I had read any until the Bedtime Stories boxed set arrived on our doorstep recently, along with a standalone copy of We Are Moving. I must admit, these books are not my favorites. But I must also admit that Baby Bookworm, at nearly three years old, adores them. So I felt that in good conscience, I had to write about them. 

These are quick reads, designed for the interests of preschoolers and early elementary school kids. The Bedtime Stories set includes: 

  • The Best Teacher Ever (choosing a gift for Teacher Appreciation Day)
  • The Best Show & Share (deciding what to bring for a special show and tell)
  • Bye, Bye, Mom and Dad (spending the night with Grandma and Grandpa)
  • The Lost Dinosaur Bone (solving a mystery at the natural history museum)
  • Just a Little Too Little (camping out)
  • Just a Little Music  (attempting to play an instrument)

Baby Bookworm likes the kid-friendly humor. Like when in We Are Moving Little Critter is so opposed to the move that his father has to carry him to the car, and when in Bye, Bye, Mom and Dad Little Critter makes pickle sandwiches with marshmallows on them. She also seems to like the fact that she can relate to some of the experiences (like eating in a tent), while others stretch her expectations, revealing things that she'll be able to do when she's a just a bit bigger (like camping out in the back yard or taking music lessons).

The illustrations frequently feature disagreeable expressions on the part of Little Critter and Little Sister (as when they find out about the planned move). There are other amusing details to counter the text, like when Little Critter spills "just a little bit" of paint, but we see that he has actually tipped over an entire gallon can. Or when Little Sister helps Grandpa water the garden, but we see that she's really watering Grandpa's pants. Like the topics, the illustrations are relatable and kid-friendly, full of warm details like treehouses and teddy bears.

These books do a good job of setting up kid-appropriate conflicts (such as listing off all of the worries that a kid might have in facing a move to a new house). My problem with the books is that the conflicts are resolved too hastily, and too easily. The feared move ends up fine, with all fears shown on the last 3 pages to be groundless. When Little Critter encounters setbacks with a variety of teacher appreciation gifts, the drawing that he hastily scribbles at the end of the book is the only one that the teacher puts up on her wall. When he is careless and lets the frog that he plans to bring to show and share escape, his mother finds it just in time, and he gets a ribbon. It's all just too easy and too tidy. Perhaps this is one of the things that kids like about the books, but it doesn't work for me as a reviewer. 

Still, Baby Bookworm asked me to read her all seven books this morning after breakfast, during a time period in which she usually asks for the iPad. She took a couple of the books to bed with her last night, too. And they make her laugh. All of that does work for me, and will keep me reading these books over and over again, as requested. And if I was looking for a book to address a particular issue, this is a series that I would look to.  There are "I Can Read" books about the same characters, too, which I will certainly consider when we are ready for them. Do any of you have thoughts about the Little Critters books? 

Publisher: HarperFestival (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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