Kid's Stuff -- Books About Bathtime
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Baths. Some kids love 'em, and some run screaming at the very mention. Sure are a lot of books out there that seek to brainwash little readers into jumping in the tub. Here are just a few of the best books about making splishy-splashy...




"Jack And The Dreamsack"
Written by Laurence Anholt
Illustrated by Ross Collins
(Bloomsbury, 2003)

A fantastical bedtime story about a boy who doesn't just want to have dreams, he wants to capture them and see what makes them tick. Jack waits up late and only pretends to go to sleep, then, when the dreams come, he tries to stuff as many as he can into his magical "dreamsack," moving from one surreal scene to the next. There are some cool, kooky images and a generally dreamy, imaginative vibe (and a clear debt to Winsor McKay's Little Nemo In Slumberland, both conceptually and visually...) While the evocative, creativity-friendly story is welcome, the ending is a little muddled. Jack wakes up and, naturally, finds all his captured dreams have evaporated back into the aether, but the concluding message, that "the best kind of dreams are the wide-awake dreams" doesn't quite follow, and seems tacked on. Also, it is accompanied by cameo pictures of random people who we hadn't seen before -- lovers in the park, a mother with her baby, a boy with his dog. Okay, so Anholt is telling us to bring the wonder of sleeping dreams with us into the waking world. But who are all these other people we see all of a sudden? Minor quibbles, though -- mostly this is a very nice book, just the sort of thing to light up young minds... and maybe a few old ones, too! (B+)


"Bubbles, Bubbles"
Written by Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by Fumi Kosaka
(Harper Festival, 2001)

A nice, sweet bathtime book with a bouncy rhyme and appealing, manga-ish artwork. Simple but effective pro-bath propaganda... My kid enjoyed this one. (B)


"Bath Time For John"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Little Brown & Co., 1985)

(-)


"Andrew's Bath"
Written by David McPhail
Illustrated by David McPhail
(Little Brown & Co, 1984)

The old McPhail magic is in full effect with this charming story of a young boy whose first attempt at taking a bath by himself devolves into chaos as a pack of (imaginary?) zoo animals wreak havoc at every turn. A frog splashes water on the floor, a hippopotamus sits on the soap, an alligator won't give the washcloth back, etc. Andrew's parents, who had been driven bonkers by his earlier fussiness at bathtime (the water was always too hot, or too cold, or too deep, or whatever...) hold their heads in disbelief at their new set of challenges. (The pictures of the frazzled parents trying to hold back their frustration will crack up anyone who's spend any time at all with a willful toddler...) Really cute, and just the kind of wily story about misbehavior that little kids love. (B+)


"Squeaky Clean"
Written by Simon Puttock
Illustrated by Mary McQuillan
(Little Brown, 2002)

Three little pigs say, "no bath, no way!" but still have a great time when they get in the tub... Mama pig has her hands full getting them out again and off to bed, but when all is done and the little ones are asleep, she gets to take a bath of her own. A simple celebration of soaking and suds -- not great literature or anything, but a fun book, full of action and funny, squelchy sounds. Worth checking out. (B-)


"Rabbit Ears"
Written by Amber Stewart
Illustrated by Laura Rankin
(Bloomsbury, 2006)

A good book encouraging kids to enjoy bath time... Hopscotch is a boy rabbit who doesn't like his ears to get shampooed and tries all kinds of tactics to prevent his mom from getting them wet and soapy. One day, though, his older cousin comes over for a visit and washes his own ears, prompting Hopscotch to rethink his position. He embraces the idea of becoming a "big boy" and starts washing himself... The story and art are pretty basic, but it seems to have gone over well with our kid. The only thing I didn't like (and had to skip) was the part where the mother tries to cajole the child, including bringing a slice of chocolate cake to the bathtub to try and bribe the child (that's even the word they use...) There's also an overemphasis on chocolate cake in general -- when the family has dinner, that's all that's on the table, so while this book may help with bathing issues, it's a little iffy on the nutritional side. (B)


"Miko: No Bath, No Way!"
Written by Brigitte Weninger
Illustrated by Stephanie Roehe
(Penguin-Miniedition, 2004)

Although this is a cute story, I've always read around the part that contains the title... My kid likes taking baths, and I didn't want her to get the idea that they were bad, or to give her a readmade slogan to use if she changed her mind about it. Nonetheless, this is another neat, sweet Miko book. The reason Miko hides and tries to avoid his bath is because he had a really fun day playing, and doesn't want to wash off the dirt that reminds him of his playful romps. His change of mind comes a bit abruptly, but is welcome nonetheless... Although you could get bent out of shape about the anti-bath messaging, this is still a very enjoyable book... Great artwork, as usual. (A-)


"Harry The Dirty Dog"
Written by Gene Zion
Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
(Harper Collins, 1956)

One of those books I grew up with that now seem a bit weird. Harry is an impish little dog who runs away from home rather than take a bath. While he's gone, he gets so dirty that his family can't even recognize him... at least not until he takes a bath! Although I vaguely recall liking this book when I was little, as a parent I'm less thrilled by how it demonstrates bad behavior (hating baths, running away, stealing the bath brush and hiding it...) and by how that misbehavior is counterbalanced by an implicitly judgemental, punitive moral. I still like the artwork, but the story has lost some of its lustre over the years. (Or, maybe I'm just taking it things seriously... I think I need more coffee...) (B-)




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