In Mitchell's License, author Hallie Durand captured the boisterous, sometimes destructive, exuberance of little boys, especially at bedtime, in the character of Mitchell. She also gave him some nifty parents with seemingly endless patience and understanding. Illustrator Fucile (his day job is as an animator, working for Disney on The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin for the first 15 years of his career then moving to Pixar where he worked on Wall-E, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, for which he was a Supervising Animator) brought this family to life and captured perfectly the energy and movement of Mitchell, while creating a setting with a retro, clean feel that never detracted from the characters. With Mitchell Goes Bowling, Durand and Fucile team up again to bring us a book that I think is even better than the first, with Mitchell's dad offering up some really stellar parenting, in my humble opinion. And, once again, Fucile's illustrations are bursting with movement, subdued in some ways and colorful in others, bringing to life a father and son with zeal.
A little bit older, Mitchell is still running on that endless energy that little kids seem to have. An unfortunate side effect of this is that he tends to knock a lot of things down. But, Mitchell's dad is not only patient, he is creative! He decides to take Mitchell to a place where the whole idea is to knock stuff down - a bowling alley!
At first, everything is awesome, as you would expect. The noise, the shoes and the chance to throw a big, heavy ball all come together to hold Mitchell's rapt attention. That is, until he realizes that his dad, who keeps getting strikes and doing the "steamin'-hot-potato dance," has a better score than he does. As a parent of three, a girl and two boys, this is the point in Mitchell Goes Bowling where I went from enjoying a playful picture book to scrutinizing the parenting skills of a fictional dad and, by way of association, the author. You see, I happen to be of the parenting tribe that believes in letting little children win at games, at least for the first few times. And, I'll admit it, I also break, change and eradicate rules when playing games with my (little, and by little I mean 4 and under, maybe even 3 and under) kids. My husband does not believe in playing this way. He believes in always playing by the rules and always playing to win. However, he has lightened up a little and I have come to see the importance in playing by the rules and playing fair. We have each compromised. But that doesn't mean I am not always on the look-out to see how other parents handle this delicate situation that has lifelong implications...
What I LOVE LOVE LOVE about Mitchell Goes Bowling is the way that Mitchell's dad compromises. He doesn't bend the rules, he doesn't let Mitchell win, he doesn't teach Mitchell any lessons about being a good loser. Instead, when Mitchell starts to take off his bowling shoes and talk about going home, Dad diffuses the situation by suggesting that they be on the same team. Mitchell thinks about this for a second. He wants to win and his Dad is good at getting those Xs... Together, father and son share a ball and wind up for the strike that has them both doing the "steamin'-hot-potato dance" with salsa! Reasonable, realistic and really cool. I hope we get to see more of Mitchell, his Dad and his Mom working and playing their way through the little and big bumps that are part of childhood.
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Source: Review Copy