The Prince of Venice Beach: Blake Nelson
A Tip for Nurturing Developing Readers: Take Away A Possible Fear

Open Wide! Stephen Krensky & James Burks

Book: Open Wide!
Author: Stephen Krensky
Illustrator: James Burks
Pages: 14
Age Range: 1-4

Open Wide! is a preschooler-friendly upcoming board book about the challenges of getting a baby to eat, and the lengths that parents will go to. A mom and dad are trying to get their baby to eat his dinner. He's old enough to be offered a variety of solid foods, and to take a certain delight in refusing to open his mouth. The parents attempt to manipulate him into eating through a combination of words and actions. They have a spoon that projects from a red airplane. They try to entice him with a series of animal comparisons, like:

"These yummy green beans will make you as big as an elephant."

We see the mom holding out the spoon/airplane, while the dad pretends to be an elephant. The dad's shadow is in the shape of an elephant, lending an additional visual cue so that readers can see what he's trying to do. My four year old found the goofiness of the dad's animal postures hilarious. He is particularly silly jumping around the kitchen like a bunny. His son, however, is not amused. The baby remains recalcitrant to the very end, when he takes matters into his own hands. As a bonus, this book comes with a paper airplane / spoon holder that can be extracted fro the back cover and folded together.

Although this book is about a baby, I think that it works for preschoolers, too, because stubborn behavior in regards to eating does not go away when kids learn to walk and talk. When reading with a preschooler, one can leave the punch line of each animal comparison up in the air, and ask the child to fill in the blanks.

Open Wide! is entertaining for parents, too, because we've all been there. It's quite clear, though not explicitly stated, that these are first-time parents. The cute animal examples are interspersed with statements like: "Sam, we don't have all night." For me, this dance between cajoling and demanding obedience rang true. 

Burks' illustrations are entertaining, full of funny animal shadows, grouchy baby faces, and increasingly frantic parents. There is enough detail here to make this more a book for preschoolers than for babies, though I'm sure parents will not be able to resist sharing it with their brand-new solid food eaters.

Open Wide!, with its combination of little kid humor and realistic (ok, slightly exaggerated) depiction of first-time parents, is going on my baby gift list. The "Free Plane Inside" is an added bonus. This one is definitely worth a look. 

Publisher: Cartwheel Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

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