Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda is yet another of the fantastic books put out by AbramsAppleseed, a new branch of the Abrams publishing tree that is dedicated to creating interactive, innovative books that foster development and engage readers with "artful, beautifully conceived books." Not only does Huff & Puff fit these qualifications, it is brilliantly realized and perfectly aimed at little listeners who are just getting the hang of sitting still long enough to follow a narrative. As a long time story reader at the bookstore where I work, I can tell you that there are not enough GOOD books on the shelves that offer what Huff & Puff does. Much like the gap in quality reading material that seems to exist at the third grade reading level, there seems to be a gap between the simplistic and instructive board books and traditional picture books. Simple, short story books aimed at toddlers that have a well written story and engaging illustrations are out there (Eric Carle's Head to Toe and Peggy Rathmann's Goodnight Gorilla are my go-to books when I have toddlers at story time) but there is certainly room for more, espeically if they are as superb as Huff & Puff.
A little bit more of a picture book than a board book, Huff & Puff has a sturdy cover and pages that are a bit thicker than those of a traditional picture book but not as thick as the chunky pages of a board book. This is important because Huff & Puff is an interactive book that invites little listeners to play the part of the wolf and blow down some houses. The book, which features one sentence per page begins, "First pig building a house. First pig inside the house. One wolf huffing & puffing." Then there is a page that reads, "Huff & Puff," the words floating in front of a surface that matches the house being built, with a small home in the middle of the page for the "wolf" to blow through. The next page reads, "First pig is not happy," and we see a clearly disgruntled pig in an apron and holding a mixing bowl, staring out off the page.
This pattern is repeated with the second and third pigs. Parents of toddlers will know that two things that are hugely attractive to little ones are featured in this book: repetition and destruction. I have no doubt that little listeners will shriek with glee as they see what remains of the pigs houses after they have huffed and puffed. For the third pig with the brick house, things go a bit differently, as you might expect, but rest assured, no pigs are eaten and no wolves are boiled in this book. Two tries of huffing and puffing reveal a SURPRISE! The three pigs are happily holding a large cake with smoking candles. Looks like the little wolf has blown out the candles on a birthday cake! Who's not going to love that??
I know I used this word once here already, but as I read through Huff & Puff (I have not had the chance to test it on any really little kids yet...) I can only envision the glee that readers and listeners will experience as this fantastic story unfolds.