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Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Things I Can Do, written and illustrated by Jeff Mack. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast Books, 2013. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"I can brush my own teeth.

I can pick my own clothes.

This sweater was perfect!!!

For wiping my nose."

Do you remember 'I CAN DO IT MYSELF!'? Whether you still have little ones, or your kids are grown, gone and have kids of their own, you will have strong memories of the bids for independence that young children make as they try to find sense in their world, and their place in it. As a parent, it takes patience, a sense of wonder at all they CAN accomplish, and some ability to see the humor in most of their attempts. It means clean-up, hands behind the back, and often tongue biting to keep from giving advice. But, look at them...they are growing up and becoming independent, or they have already exited the nest.

Jeff is one of those feisty, fiercely determined boys who is so pleased with himself and his accomplishments that he decides to write a book about it. In rhyming text he makes his audience aware of each and every one of them:


Boy, does he talk. But, he's got a lot going on and he just wants to share his joy!

 Jeff Mack does a splendid job of creating artwork that begs to be examined closely. He uses materials that are common in collage making and in young children's first attempts at art; but he mines his household for much more than that. Then, he creates single page images that will have little ones hooting right along with their parents and caregivers as they share this book together. Crumpled paper works great for underwear that finds its perfect place on Jeff's head and is part of  'picking his own clothes'. Hastily colored green blobs are cut from white paper and prove to be just right for attaching to a sweater, or dripping from a small nose.

 There is a great deal of energy in each of the illustrations, as should be expected when a young man is testing his wings. You will find stickers, newspaper, chewed gum, masking tape to keep the pictures in his book, and glue, glue, glue! My experience teaching in kindergarten classrooms helps me appreciate Jeff Mack's ability to convey a young child's imaginative brilliance. He does it just as a young child might...with clever attention to the details that so entrance them. The lettering is just right. The book is a wonder!

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