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That New Animal | Class #2 2015

that new animalHere’s another picture book for our second class. There are lots of books out there that tackle an emotional issue in a heavy handed way. I’m not a fan of those books, but I love this one. What do you think? Does it accomplish its goal? Would it appeal to a child in a similar situation? How does it avoid sounding preachy — or does it? And what do you make of the ugly baby?

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

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Comments

  1. Nicole Eslinger says:

    I thought this book did a good job of reflecting the feelings a child in a similar situation might experience. Rather than sounding “preachy”, it normalizes the experience of a new sibling entering the home and lets the child know that it is okay to feel confused and upset. By focusing on a dog’s perspective, the book suggests these feelings in a less direct manner and therefore children may be more willing to find the book relatable (with the focus taken off of the child, and human beings in general for that matter). In addition, the humor seems to make the topic a bit easier to discuss with children. The end of the story provides some comfort in that everyone will still have his or her place in the family, even with the new addition.

  2. Lindsey Bailey says:

    I absolutely LOVED this book! I agree with Nicole about how the book serves to “normalize” the arrival of a new sibling without necessarily pointing to the reader’s own experience – it’s indirect, and in a way that makes it all the more relatable. The novelty of the perspective, along with the simple, straightforward language one might expect coming from two dogs, make this an engaging and accessible read.

  3. Sara Gordon says:

    I enjoyed this book. As Nicole and Lindsey mentioned, this book focuses on the introduction of a new sibling into the family, and gives the reader (likely, a parent and his or her child who is about to become an older sibling) comfort in knowing that just because they will have a new baby brother or sister, they will not become irrelevant or excluded, even if it feels that way at first. Also, it will make parents aware of the feelings their child might experience when a new child is brought into the family, and they can possibly use this book as a reminder to the child (and to themselves!) once the baby is born, emphasizing how everyone has their place and all of the members of the family are important.

    I also think that the dialogue, and getting into the minds of the dogs, further serves to emphasize the thoughts that the child who is becoming an older sibling may be having, instead of just recording observations from the outside with respect to the dogs.

    Lastly, on the final page with the copyright information, the mother is pregnant again, and the child is looking up at her. This might be foreshadowing that the child will adopt the thought patterns that the dogs had when the child was born.

  4. I think everyone has made excellent points about this book! I love how it might make a child think about how an animal might have felt when he or she came home from the hospital to make the newness of a baby brother or sister in the house not feel so abnormal. The animals are great descriptors of feelings of missing out on attention, or having to share spots on the couch. I didn’t find it preachy, but I loved the sweetness of the animals having the feelings of a new “animal” in the house and how relatable that is. I think the ugly baby is very interesting– and i am not quite sure what to think about that! Perhaps, it is a way of making the situation relatable to a young child and expressing how they might feel about the new baby.

  5. Moses Kim says:

    I loved this. I think the design choices, especially in terms of color/spatial arrangement, captured the sense of isolation kids might feel with the arrival of a new sibling: the dogs are often positioned in white space outside a family scene before they become integrated into the scenes later on. (One scene just has disembodied fingers pointing at the two characters juxtaposted against a shot of the parents’ faces as they kiss their baby.) I also think that the character development rang true to what I imagine many kids will feel when they’re called on to defend a younger sibling they don’t necessarily like yet: it shows a sense of humor and an ability on the author’s part to talk to kids without talking down at them.

  6. Gek Keng says:

    I echo many of the same sentiments as other commenters! In my opinion, this book avoids sounding preachy by creating an onlooker perspective of the entire situation that is not coming from another human being. Instead, this perspective comes from two really adorable dogs (as Nicole has mentioned). Perhaps why the baby looks “ugly” or less conventionally cute is because this comes from the dogs’ perspective and they do not think the baby is cute. I also appreciate how these two dogs have their own personality types with Marshmallow putting FudgeFudge in place by telling her not to do all the naughty things to the new baby – it reminds me of an elder sibling taking charge. I wonder, though, about why the book uses “Grandpa” as a strange visitor to the house, instead of just a generic random nameless visitor.

  7. I thought this book was hilarious and I laughed a lot while reading it. I loved the perspective taken, that of two pet dogs rather than an older sibling upon the arrival of a new baby. I also agree with the comment made above that it was not preachy or condescending in any way- I feel like new baby stories always have some element of the parents saying “this is your brother/sister, so you have to love them” type of message. I enjoyed how the dogs came to this realization all on their own, and I also liked the dynamic of the dogs talking through the situation together and the humans having very little dialogue in the book. I feel this would be a very appropriate book for a new big sister or brother.

  8. Ben Johnson says:

    I agree with much of the sentiment that was stated by other commenters. I wanted to add that I thought it was especially clever that the author used two dogs, instead of just one, to allow the dogs to verbalize their thoughts through dialogue. It takes some of the weight of inferences off of young readers, while also allowing for comedy. Additionally, the presence of two characters allows for opportunities to ask questions that compare the dog’s personalities, while also considering how their personalities affect their actions.

  9. For the most part, I enjoyed this book. As a new parent who has worried how a new family addition makes the pets… and then our first child… feel, I completely related to the parents! This reminds me of Henkes’ Julius, Baby of the World and other books about sibling’s feelings. My problem with this book, and with Julius, is how strong the negative feelings are portrayed. Use of the word “hate” to describe how they feel about the new animal is too strong for me. I feel the same could be portrayed by simply showing confusion or annoyance at the “new animal”. Henkes does something similar in Julius that bothers me, too. And, again, as a new parent that has read many of these books to my own first born, I was concerned about my daughter latching on to those strong negative feelings when she had not shown them herself.

  10. Zohal Atif says:

    When I read the title “That new Animal” I was not expecting the point of view the story took. I think it was a marvelous approach to the topic. I agree with all the above comments that this was a cleaver way to introduce a new sibling to children. To acknowledge their feelings and confusion at their parents attention towards the new baby. I thought the illustrations were good attempt as well to make the child feel that it is their world and could connect to the story. The use of bright colors, and crayon like drawing certainly would have the child reader feel connected to the story. Moses Kim made a good observation that dogs were placed at white corners before integrating them to the story with use of colors.

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