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Monday, February 8, 2010

Me Hungry! Written and illustrated by Jeremy Tankard. Candlewick, Random House, 2008. $17.50 ages 3 and up

"Me hungry! Me busy! Hey, me hungry! Me busy!"

When we first meet the prehistoric young man who stars in this book, we can see that his tummy is talking to him. It's in the lines that radiate from that spot and we are only on the title page. Jeremy Tankard is adept at using his art to help him tell this tale which has a limited amount of text. The boy sees his father working to open a peanut with a club and lets him know about his hunger. Two simple hungry! The father is too busy to help. Then he seeks out his mother, who is also busy tending to four young children. The hunger lingers and the boy is determined that he will solve his own problem. Off he goes to hunt for what he needs.

There are only fifty words in total to tell this simple story, and many of those are repeated; but readers and listeners will be entertained from the get-go. The expressive faces, the use of space and the determination of the hunter to find his own solution to the problem leads to an unexpected twist that will bring satisfaction to all, most especially the boy and his new friend.

This a brilliant example of the kinds of books we want in the hands of children just learning to read. It tells them that stories are worth the work and encourages them to continue finding the stories that satisfy them. Best of all, it helps them find the path to lifelong literacy.

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