William Steig’s When Everybody Wore a Hat captivated the both of us. It’s about what things were like when he was eight years old, in 1916. Little snippets of daily life: “Mom said Esther Haberman had a big mouth.” “For a nickel you could get a lot: a hot dog sandwich from a stand. A pound of fruit. A movie.” “There was no such thing as a hatless human being. Cops had hats. Criminals had hats. Even monkeys.” Rough, childlike art, yet so quintessentially Steig and brilliant in its rich storytelling—Rilla loved it, wanted the pages turned slowly so she could pore over every detail. Home run.
Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day—three times in a row. She’s read it dozens of times before, of course; this is a perennial favorite here; but this time it tickled her more than ever. Real belly laughs, those amazing deep-chuckly ones that mean wonder and abandon. We never noticed the mischievous glint in Carl’s eye until today, right after the mother has left and the baby is climbing out of the crib onto his back. “He’s grinning!” Rilla cried. “I never saw that.” The aquarium-dunking and the living-room dancing made her laugh and laugh. “Again,” she begged. “Again!”
Let’s Do Nothing—another repeat favorite. She loves Tony Fucile’s art, loves to compare the expressions of the do-nothing boys to Bink and Gollie.
Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Konnecke. We’d read this once before and she squealed with delight when it turned up in the pile—“I’ve been looking for this!” Who knew? Anton fancies himself a magician—who wouldn’t, with that great big befeathered turban? This is a translation from German and the present-tense text feels a bit unusual in a picture-book context; most English stories of this kind are told in past tense. But it works well here, lending a sense of immediacy and tension to Anton’s unsettling discovery that he does, indeed, seem to have made his friend Luke disappear. Actually, now that I think about, the very simple, spare text is more like an early reader. I’m tempted to look for it in German: it might be just about my level.