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Middle-school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan prove that two heads are better than one when it comes to discussing YA and children's books

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Saturday, May 18, 2013 5:45 pm
Phoebe & Digger by Tricia Springstubb
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan

9780763652814_p0_v1_s114x166Lynn:  It’s pretty exciting when a new baby first comes home but for a toddler, that magic often diminishes as reality sets in and the baby gets a lot of attention.  Phoebe & Digger (Candlewick 2013) is a wonderfully funny, nuanced look at that common situation from the toddler’s point of view.  In our story there has been some parental planning at work here:

“When Mama got a new baby…

Phoebe got a new digger.”

Phoebe loves her new toy but it’s clear that she is less than enchanted with the new baby.  One afternoon, Mama is very busy with the baby and Phoebe is equally busy with Digger.  Jeff Newman’s funny illustrations show what Phoebe and Digger are up to and it is no wonder that Mama decides a trip to the park is in order.  All is fine for a while until Phoebe tries to explain a perfectly reasonable situation to a “crybaby boy” and ends up in time out.  Released, Phoebe next has an encounter with a “big girl with mean teeth” who takes Digger away from her.  Happily, in steps Mama and much is resolved in an ending that is sweetly reassuring.

This little slice of life is a delight – as much for the little ones adjusting to a new sibling as for the adults also adjusting.  I adore Newman’s illustrations that reveal the reality behind the toddler-perception of the story.  I’ll leave more about that to Cindy and will just say that my favorite illustration is of Phoebe in time-out.

This is the perfect book for little ones and families!   The spacious pages and large illustrations make it great for a story-hour as well as being a lap-time treasure for parents and toddlers to read while a new baby sleeps.  I’ve already ordered this for the youngest member of our focus group, Henry, who is going to be a big brother in a few months!

Cindy: Digger is quite the expressive construction toy with facial moves that are sure to elicit laughter and Phoebe’s imagination doesn’t hurt. Earthworms become boa constrictors and the sandbox holds mountains. The day is full of adventure…and conflict. When confronted with the bully, Phoebe tried using her words (oh, did I say that a lot over the years…”use your words!”) But that doesn’t work this time…nor does her knuckles (just a little) or her foot (not too hard). Sometimes the presence of an adult can smooth things over. Mama might seem preoccupied with the new baby, but she has eyes everywhere and she sizes up situations all throughout the story in subtle ways, ones that will surely amuse the adults reading this book to young children.

Thank you for a family with brown skin. For a girl who plays with toy trucks. For a story that shows acceptable limits of behavior with enforced consequences. For a funny but reassuring story about new babies. For the simple but dual look at bullying behavior. Rarely do we see a character who is both bullied and bully in books for the very young. This is a story with love at its heart, expressed in words and art on every page.




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