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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm The Best, written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2010. $19.00 ages 2 and up

"These are my friends -
Ladybug, Mole, Goose,
and Donkey.

I love them.
They're great,
but I'm the best."

As you can see from the above quote, Dog has a pretty high opinion of himself. If you have had experience with this kind of friend, they can be awfully hard to take. He can run faster than Mole and doesn't mind announcing it to the world. He can dig holes better than Goose...and on it goes.

The other animals are definitely outmatched at the contests that Dog presents, assuring himself proof that he is 'the best'. He is relentless in his efforts to prove himself. It takes a toll on his friends, as even the youngest readers will anticipate. Their sadness is palpable, but they are not ready to give up. What if Mole dug the holes? Who would be better? And what about Goose swimming with Dog? Who would win that contest?

Soon, it is Dog who is feeling bad about himself:

"Oh, dear.
I'm not the best at anything. 
I'm horrible at everything.
I'm just a silly show-off."

He is deeply apologetic.

Oops! Now his friends must convince Dog that he is good at many things, but especially at being a best friend. Oh, and with beautiful fluffy ears, too.

That makes him happy and he is off on another round of bragging. When will he ever learn?

Of her book, Lucy Cousins says:

"I'm the Best I really enjoyed because it was with inks rather than paints, so it felt new. The line is a pencil drawn line rather than a brush stroke. So I'm starting to feel that I like experimenting to find something different and a little bit fresh. With I'm the Best, I wanted it to be very, very bold, almost like my sketchbooks. Often when I'm doing my sketches for ideas they have a real vitality to them, and when I've redone that page seven times and had a go at a few colored paintings it's quite hard to keep that freshness."

I love her artwork....the bold, vibrant colors, the expressive faces of Dog and all of his friends, the smudgy watercolor details and the fun there is to share with young listeners. This is a story with much to consider and is sure to encourage discussion about what being a friend really means.

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