Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Children's Book Week: Pouch!

I really enjoy children's books about the animals of Australia, such as Jackie French's Diary of a Baby Wombat (with great illustrations by Bruce Whatley), but I am especially fond of kangaroos. I remember hanging out with a lot of kangaroo moms and joeys at a wildlife park in Australia. The older joeys would often do a thing where they would hide their heads in mom's pouch or go in and out frequently. It may sound strange, but sometimes I wish that I had a pouch--it just seems like it would be easier than adjusting the straps on my baby carrier.

When I first saw the book Pouch! by David Ezra Stein, I couldn't help signing it out of the library (and later buying it). It's a simple story about a young joey's first few times venturing out of his mother's pouch. Whenever he gets freaked out about something, he goes "Pouch!" and runs back to his mother. Towards the end of the book, he makes a friend and becomes a bit more independent. It's a little bittersweet from the mom's point of view ("what, you don't need me as much?") but cute and happy nonetheless.

Emmett and I have enjoyed some other lovely kangaroo books. Recently we've read I Love It When You Smile, which is by Sam McBratney, the same author as bedtime favorite Guess How Much I Love You. Another good book for Australian animals is John Lithgow's Marsupial Sue. (This book, as well as Lithgow's I'm a Manatee, is also a song.) I don't always get on board with the "I'm an actor and now I have a children's book" thing, but Lithgow won me over with his "Singing in the Bathtub" children's album and now I'm a fan of his children's work. Marsupial Sue has a message about being yourself instead of trying to be someone you're not. Like many Books With a Message, it can come across a little heavy-handed, but the book has grown on me in subsequent readings.

Out of the kangaroo books that I've mentioned, Pouch! is the simplest and because every element of it works so well, it's my favorite...but I'm always on the lookout for more marsupial books!

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