Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ooh La La Polka-Dot Boots

Who hasn’t wanted a pair of polka-dot boots?  They are a staple of fashion for little children everywhere.  I quite often talk in my reviews about Frances, who is four years old, and the books she is interested in.  But this is a book that Gloria, who is almost three and introduces herself as “the guy who reads books”, adores.  She calls this book “the polky-dot book” , and I’d like to look at some of the things that made this book such a hit with Gloria.
Each double-page spread has four children on it, each wearing a specific item of clothing in a different way.  Shirts, sweaters, pants and many other items are all depicted with individual flair.  There is a little girl wearing a small shirt (its button popping off), a boy wearing a silver spaceman hat, a boy in front of a silo wearing country pants (overalls) and many, many more.  The description of each of the children’s clothing is brief – two words per child, each piece of rhyming text dancing above the child’s head.  Inset into each double-page spread is a page about the third of the size of the rest of the book.  When the smaller page is flipped over to the left, it reveals each of the children wearing some form of polka-dot boots. 
While the text is brief, the descriptions are extended by the vivid, individual portraits of the children.  Engel’s illustrations are diverse and carry all the energy young children have inside them.  None of these children are sitting still, hands folded daintily.  They are all moving, running, full of fun and joy.  Gloria loves to pore over the details – the girl riding a scooter and showing off her peacoat, the girl painting a tree on a wall.  Engel also does a great job interpreting “polka-dot boots”.  They are rainboots, cowboy boots, sneakers and slippers.  Each child is unique, and that’s what makes the book so fun.
The great portraits combined with the short text make this book very accessible for young listeners.  After having the book read to her once, Gloria could “read” it herself.  She may not use the exact vocabulary  (she says “crazy coat” instead of “zany coat”, for instance) but she knows that each spread has all the same type of clothing.  She also knows that when you flip the smaller page over, it all looks better with polka-dot boots.  Gloria likes to point out the shoes that are not technically boots, especially the slippers.  She spends lots of time with this book, and I have found the book all over the house.
One of the things I really like as a parent and a book-lover is its durability.  The pages are coated and seem stronger than most other picture books.  They feel more like a thin board book page.  Even the smaller pages are tightly bound in, so after multiple readings (our copy has been owned by our public library for 18 months), it still looks brand new.  It is so well-made that I don’t have to worry about Gloria taking it in her bed, where pages get crushed and folded down on a daily basis.

I was sorry to learn that Tricycle Press, the publisher of this great book, closed earlier this year, so access to this book may be limited.  I still highly recommend it and hope that you are able to find a copy at your local library or in a bookstore.

I think this book would work very well in a preschool setting.  Preschools and daycare centers often have weekly themes, and this book would work well in a clothing theme for sure.  The brief text and engaging pictures are perfect for young attention spans, and the flip pages make the book very interactive.  We like to look at the children’s feet before and after the polka-dot boots, laughing at the variety of bare feet, colored socks and boots.  The enthusiasm and energy in this book are really infectious.  I’m not sure Gloria will allow me to return this book to the library.  I may have to sneak it out of the house!
Ooh La La Polka-Dot Boots.  Olson-Brown, Ellen; illustrated by Christiane Engel.  Tricycle Press, 2010.
Borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library

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