I was so excited when I saw that Nina in That Makes Me Mad, the newest book from TOON BOOKS, is by Hilary Knight's. One of the books that left a lasting impression on me as a small child was Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight's Eloise. When I was a kid, long before Kay Thompson died and the rights to her books reverted to her heirs, that one book about that endearing deviant was the ONLY Eloise book out there. I pored over that book, insisted my parents make a special trip to The Plaza during a family vacation when I was eleven, and made a 3D book report that featured Eloise's very messy bedroom when I was in fifth grade. A couple of years after Thompson died in 1998 the suppressed Eloise books (Eloise in Paris, Eloise in Moscow and the slap-dash Eloise Takes a Bawth) began to hit the shelves, as did movies and lesser-type picture books along with a handful of dolls created by Madame Alexander. My love of Eloise naturally lead to an interest in all things Hilary Knight. At the age of eighty-five, I am thrilled that his is still creating picture books in his wonderfully elegant, crisp style.
Nina in That Makes Me Mad is based on a 1976 picture book by Steven Kroll, who died in March of this year, and is dedicated to him. Knight does a wonderful job capturing the spirit of Kroll's Nina and giving her a new format to express herself in - a comic book! While she may share some gestures and mannerisms with Eloise, Nina is definitely a more realistic representation of a three or four year old child than Eloise is of a six year old. The book consists of Nina telling us twelve things that make her mad and one thing that makes her feel better ("When I can tell you that I'm mad!") One page is dedicated to that which makes Nina mad, while the following page illustrates it.
Each of the things that makes Nina mad is so spot on. As the parent of two children with fiery temperaments (which they have since grown out of, thankfully) I feel very qualified to say this. What makes Nina mad? I will share a few items on the list here, but Knight's illustrations really perfect the sentiment. Things that make Nina mad: when I try and it doesn't work, when you don't let me help, when you let me pick and I pick the wrong thing, when you don't know what I like (hallelujah!)
One of the things that I love about every TOON BOOK I have read thus far (and, in fact, this is true for all genuinely great beginning to read books) is that, while these books are meant for emerging readers to tackle on their own, they are fabulous read-out-louds. When I first read Nina in That Makes Me Mad my initial thought was, "This would be such a great book to read with a toddler!" They are at that age when they are feeling their feelings and just beginning to be able to recognize and understand them in the smallest ways. I am sure that Nina in That Makes Me Mad will help little ones articulate these fierce feelings as well as nudge new readers a little further down the road to fluency.