So you intend to gift a pre-schooler with a book. Rather vaguely, you imagine that a three-year-old will like pictures and a few easy words scattered on the page. Bob the Builder you mutter to yourself. With a suppressed shudder you avoid the things that pass for Winnie-the-Pooh.
But there’s really only one rule to buying books for very young children: you have to enjoy reading it.
The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash is a guaranteed fun read. Written by Trinka Hakes Noble, with wonderful illustrations by Steven Kellogg, the book starts with a fairly innocuous question. “How was your class trip to the farm?” a mother asks her daughter. As any parent who has ever tried to extract information from their child knows, a simple question usually results in some very complicated and surreal answers. “Oh… boring… kind of dull… until the cow started crying,” the daughter answers. From then on, the story is all mayhem and glee, with eggs, corn, pigs and lunch boxes in starring roles.
The illustrations are funny, and like all good illustrations, tell a story of their own. In tandem with the main narrative (which moves in reverse), it credits the reader with some intelligence and an acute sense of humour.
What of Jimmy’s boa constrictor, you ask. Last seen, the farmer’s wife was knitting it a sock. Or was it a sweater? Go read and figure.