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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Best Birthday Party Ever, written by Jennifer LaRue Huget and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2011. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"I am inviting all of my friends
- 57 of them, counting some
kids I just met at the grocery
store. Plus my grandmas. And
the mailman. And the lady at
the bank who gives me lollipops."

Oh boy! It's gonna be OVER THE TOP!

Kids are going to love this book, and not just the little ones! After all, they are not the only ones who celebrate birthdays. To call this little girl's birthday an occasion is understating it. She starts the planning early:

"My birthday is 5 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, and 8 hours away. Today I started to plan my party. It's going to be the best birthday party ever."

If she has everything to do with it,  it will be just that. She's got a box of party planning stuff, how-to books for baking cakes and throwing parties, crayons, paper and a wondrous imagination. What more does she need? As time passes and she keeps readers apprised of it; she settles on balloons, streamers, invitations, the color scheme and all the other little details that will assure its success. The plans include tiaras, clown hats and even, real hamsters as party favors. (If you have been to see the movie Bridesmaids, you know what  I mean...remember the shower and the puppies?)

Her imagination runs riot and the days pass quickly...perhaps not quite quickly enough to satisfy her growing need to celebrate, but certainly with enough time to keep coming up with new ideas. She's having so much fun anticipating a card from the President and the Queen. It doesn't take long for readers to get caught up in the 'over the top' expectations. Perhaps it is also an expression of their finest and most unlikely-to-happen wishes and dreams.

The illustrations are remarkable, matching the story's tone with brilliantly colored, detail filled pages. There is so much to see that children will go back to it again and again, always exclaiming over what they missed the last time they looked. As the ideas become grander so does the artwork, always accommodating the ingenuity of the narrator. I love the changing favorite is where the book is turned vertically to accommodate the ever-growing birthday cake, with enough candles to have fire fighters on the ladder at its top and at the ready to put out any fire that might occur. Kids will love the countdown as the day approaches, updates that continue to the night before the big day.

When the party ends up being a perfectly normal event,she is unperturbed. The guests are welcomed, the cake is eaten and much fun is had by all. Once her friends have departed, it seems the perfect time to begin making plans for next year.

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