With their second book together, I think I can safely say that Amy Reichert and Alexandra Boiger are a perfect pair! I discovered this dynamic duo's first book together, While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat, in 2005 and made sure that it was on my first ever Best Picture Books of the Year list when I started my blog in 2008, even though it was published three years earlier. Amy Reichert's story is about a little girl named Rose who, as she waits for her Mama to finish a phone call and tuck her in to bed, has to cope with an increasingly hectic, noisy and celebratory batch of visitors, which she manages to handle with great aplomb. Boiger's illustrations, pencil sketches with bursts of color, are tame when they need to be an brilliantly boisterous when the story takes off. It feels like it's been a long wait for this new book, but I can happily say that it was well worth it!
Take Your Mama to Work Today begins, "Snow days. Half days. Babysitter's sick today? Take Your Child to Work Day!" With her new book, Reichert again exhibits her wonderful ability to see the world from a child's perspective and an adult's at the same time. She clearly remembers what it was like to be a child but, often with the help of Boiger's superb illustrations, she also has a firm foot in the world of adulthood. I am sure we have all been in the fraught position of having to scramble to find a solution to an unexpected child care dilemma. I know I have taken my kids to work with me once or twice before, although never for a whole shift... But, Reichert also has a great sense of humor and what could be tense situation is diffused by the star of the show, Violet, who begins her list of advice to readers with this tip, "You never know when you might have to go to work at the office. So be prepared."
Violet knows that "Grown-ups love it when kids push elevator buttons for them" and that all of your mom's coworkers will be so excited to see you when you get to the office. And "someone just like Mrs Honey" will show you her secret candy drawer and tell you to "take as much as you want, whenever you want it." After all, Violet tells us, "Grown-ups love it when kids visit the office- they'll treat you just like a movie star!" Adults may smirk at this observation, but I am certain that some kids feel this way when visiting mom or dad's work. However, the cracks begin to show (to the reader, although not Violet...) after a while. Violet says, "Here's an important thing to keep in mind-" A turn of the page treats you to this tip for using the office phone as well as appropriate conversation topics (the traffic, the weather and "someone's goofy-looking new baby") for snack time, which is called a "coffee break" at the office.
Sometimes mom might need you to take a package to the mail room "at once" and "immediately" and this might be a good time to "find a nice adult to teach you how to use the copy machine, and then teach them how to add a snazzy personal touch" as seen below...
Violet finds a few more activities to entertain herself with, including helping the boss prepare for a presentation, also known as "show-and-tell." As a mother who has had to bring small children into unwelcoming environments (transatlantic flights, fancy restaurants, the Vatican) and tried to fight down my dread that they would upset other adults, what I loved most about Take Your Mama to Work Today, besides Violet's winning voice, is the tolerance and acceptance that the other office workers show Violet and her mother. Mama definitely comes close to losing it once or twice, but she never does. And you never see her coworkers giving her or Violet the stink-eye, either. As I read Take Your Mama to Work Today, I was reminded of a childhood favorite of mine, Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight's Eloise (the original, not the watered down television version today.) Like Violet, Eloise, is a child making her way in an adult environment. And, like Eloise, Violet, who is also in possession of a winning voice, can tell you what to do and when to do it, with great authority. However, this sense of authority also earned Eloise glaring looks and raised eyebrows from adults. I realize this is mostly a result of the period when Eloise was published (1955) when children were still expected to be seen and not heard, but I think it would have been easy for Reichert and Boiger to go that route and I'm glad they didn't. Instead, Take Your Mama to Work Today is a sweet story that ends with a nice hug as the elevator goes down to the lobby at the end of the work day and Violet and Mama "hop, hop, hop across the entire lobby floor, on the white squares only, right out the door."
Thank you for another wonderful book, Amy and Alexandra, and I hope we have another one from the two of you soon!
You can hear Amy Reichert and Alexandra Boiger talking about the creation of While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat, with NPR's Michele Norris back in 2005 by clicking HERE. The interview also includes a really fantastic dramatization of a part of the book. I love the way Boiger uses the color red in all of her books - always a burst of excitement against a more subdued background that catches your eye and draws you in.
More books Alexandra Boiger has illustrated you might enjoy...
Also on my "Best Of" list from 2008 is The Little Bit Scary People by Emily Jenkins (Toys Go Out trilogy). A wonderful from another author who remembers childhood, Jenkins' main character points out people who seem a little bit scary, from the teenager with a mohawk to the bus driver to the principal at school. Then, she imagines them in a private moment - maybe they have a kitten, take ballroom dancing or jog while listening to music. This book has so many important things to say, and Boiger's detail rich, colorful illustrations make the story even more engaging.
I have to admit, after a many years of a pink tide in the world of picture books, thanks to the Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious empires, I was not very excited to see Marilyn Singer's Tallulah's Tutu. However, Alexandra Boiger's name on a book will always get me to read it and I'm glad I did. Singer's books are not part of the pink tide despite their pastel palette and ballet-centric stories. In the first book, Tallulah takes dance lessons because she really, really wants a tutu. When she realizes she will have to earn it and that this will take time, she decides to quit. However, she soon finds herself dancing in the grocery store and everywhere else and decides to return to the barre and do the hard work. In Tallulah's Solo, she is excited when her little brother wants to give ballet a try, but frustrated by his less-than-dedicated approach to it.