If you are like me, you know Patrick McDonnell mainly for his comic strip, Mutts, which records the adventures of Mooch the cat, his best friend Earl (a dog), and their human companions. While I enjoy the comic strip, and its content and whimsical drawing style seem pretty well suited for sharing with preschoolers, I personally find reading comic strips out loud rather tedious, so had been saving the Mutts revelation for when my daughter was older and could read it for herself.
Last Christmas, my brother proved that his uncanny ability to match readers with writers was not limited to the rapidly approaching 40 set by giving my four-year-old Patrick McDonnell’s book Just Like Heaven. At first blush the revelation that Patrick McDonnell had a children’s book may appear to be more exciting for me than my daughter. But through Just Like Heaven my daughter has come to love the Mutts characters nearly as much as I do.
So why review wag! instead?
While she loves Just Like Heaven and will curl up contentedly on my lap listening to me read it for as long as my voice will hold out, my daughter will actually read wag! to me. (Or more accurately, to her T. Rex puppet, Rainbow, while I record the whole thing on my iPhone.)
Much of it is recited from memory, of course. But she recognizes the odd word here and there, and uses those prompts to recall the rest of the story, much as you or I might use a slide deck to bluff our way through a speech. She really gets into her storytelling, and uses slightly different voices for the narrator of the story and Mooch the cat. (No really. I have the video to prove it.)
Maybe it’s the whimsical art. Maybe it’s the simple text. But whatever the source of the pixie dust, wag! transforms my daughter from passive listener to active reader, a feat for which we at Caterpickles Central give it 5 stars.
And now it’s your turn. What are you reading this week?