Two Superb New Kids’ Books
A Review of
The One and Only Bob
illustrated by Patricia Castelao
Reviewed by Erin Wasinger
Readers can tell: Christian Robinson remembers what being a kid feels like. Every page turn in his latest book, You Matter, is not only fun to read but also captures big feelings in very few words. Unlike other books in the feel-good kids’ books game, Robinson’s words always stay tangible, concrete, relatable. How does a writer tell a kid they matter? What does that even mean? As Robinson shows us, “You matter” feels like “I love you,” even when it’s sandwiched between stuff like “Sometimes you fall,” and “Sometimes someone you love says good-bye.” That makes sense to a child in a way that “you be you” may not yet.
His art isn’t sentimental, either. Fans will recognize the Caldecott honoree’s signature style — two favorites include the wordless wonder Another (Atheneum Books, 2019), and Last Stop on Market Street (Penguin, 2015), which earned him a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. You Matter’s pictures prompt giggles (a mosquito and a short-armed dino), then a “whoa” (as an astronaut peers down at the glowing globe), followed by a couple pleas to “wait a minute! Turn the page back — look!” The best picture books do that.
You Matter is a read for bedtime or the classroom; a gift for the reader and the kids pointing to the pictures on the pages.
In Katherine Applegate’s latest book, Bob is a dog getting used to the domesticated life; he’s friends with Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant from the hit The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, 2012). This book doesn’t need my help to sell: this sequel is just as sweet as the original, whose movie adaptation releases on Disney+ in August. Even so, The One and Only Bob is a top recommendation for my middle-grade reluctant readers.
Judging only by its size, the 350-plus page book may feel overwhelming. Just like Ivan, though, chapters are a page or two, maybe three, with one-sentence paragraphs and quick-paced action. The book’s full of humor, heart, and lessons on friendship, told from the perspective of the dog who’ll be voiced by Danny DeVito in Ivan.
Oh, and if you’ve got reservations about dog books because of Where the Red Fern Grows, I assure you: Bob might make you cry, but the ending earns the smiles you’ll be left with.