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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Excellent Ed, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Alfred A Knopf, Random House. 2016. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Maybe if I was excellent like Elaine, Emily, Elmer, Edith, and Ernie, then I could eat at the table and ride in the van and sit on the couch and use the indoor bathroom, Ed thought.
But what was Ed excellent at?
Then he got it. Breaking stuff!"

Why can't Ed be excellent like everyone else in his family? There are so many things he can't do that the rest of the family can. There must be something that he can do better than anyone else. Isn't there?

As he watches other members of the family and tries to do what they were doing, he finds himself sorely lacking. It takes a lot of thinking before he comes up with the idea that he is excellent at breaking things. Maybe he can take his place at the table then. Wait! Just at that moment Elaine happily announces that she had broken a record for most soccer goals in a season, Ed knows he must think harder! Every single time he thinks that he has finally figured it out, another family member thwarts his success. It's tough to be normal in a family where everyone is 'excellent'.

It takes time. It takes the family noticing what he is excellent at before Ed sees it for himself. As each family member speaks highly of what he does well, Ed understands why there are certain things he is not allowed to do - eat at the table, ride in the van, sit on the couch, use the indoor bathroom. Of all the things he comes to understand, only one has him stymied. You might be able to guess what it is!

Writing this story from a dog's perspective ups the humor, and helps readers sympathize with Ed as he tries to gain self-esteem in an overachieving family. It's great fun to watch as he generates a likely explanation for all those things he is not allowed to do. Readers will appreciate the surprise ending.

The illustrations are full of fun and action. They help the story move quickly forward. Front endpapers give quick glimpses of Ed as he does his very best to release himself from the restrictions a striped sweater creates to his movement. In the back, he is free and full of frolic, happily rolling and cavorting in green grass. Using acrylics, watercolor, crayon and grease pencil, Julia Sarcone-Roach creates illustrations that are lively and engaging, warm and energetic.

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