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The gold standard

And don’t forget to suggest names for our upcoming parent-themed blog!

The Saddest Toileapple_saddesttoilett in the World
by Sam Apple; illus. by Sam Ricks
Preschool Aladdin/Simon 32 pp.
6/16 978-1-4814-5122-2 $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-5123-9 $10.99

Potty training is serious business for all involved, but what of the unsung toilet? Does anyone consider its feelings? Apple and Ricks do just that in this laugh-out-loud respite from charts, rewards, and accidents. Young Danny isn’t ready to pee in the potty, despite his parents’ gentle encouragement. The thin-skinned toilet, feeling unloved and unappreciated, packs its plunger in a suitcase and heads dejectedly out into the night. The next morning Danny is willing, but “there’s only one problem”…and mother and son embark on a frantic search for their AWOL bathroom fixture. Ricks’s cartoon illustrations show the two looking “in all the wrong places”; the visibly relaxed toilet, however, seems to be enjoying its touristy foray into what appears to be New York City. A chance meeting on the subway leads to a tentative rapprochement and eventually back home to the bathroom, where Danny immediately sits on the potty for an inaugural pee: “I’ve never felt so happy!” the toilet gushes. The potty humor flows freely in Ricks’s expressive digital illustrations (e.g., the toilet views Duchamp’s Fountain sculpture; its subway stop is Flushing Meadows). Apple’s restrained text helps the preposterous scenario float. A celebratory roller coaster ride nods to the ups-and-downs of this rite of passage and hints at challenge number two (get it?). Reluctant potty-goers might be encouraged to hit the head after this ridiculous adventure. KITTY FLYNN

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

shea_dinopottyDinosaur vs. the Potty
by Bob Shea; illus. by the author
Preschool Disney-Hyperion 32 pp.
9/10 978-1-4231-3339-1 $15.99 g

Temporarily conquered by sleep in the rousing — rousing for readers, that is — Dinosaur vs. Bedtime (rev. 9/08), the little red dynamo is back in action, thumbing his snout at new opponents. Shea sticks to the tried-and-true pattern from the first book: Dinosaur loudly triumphs over a variety of tasks (“Dinosaur versus…making lemonade! Roar! Roar! Mix! Squeeze! Roar!”) until, inevitably, he bows to the call of nature. Bold design elements — heavy outline, lots of color, playful placement of type, etc. — echo the character’s T. rex–sized personality as he romps through a lawn sprinkler, drinks three juice boxes at lunch, and (with the garden hose) waters down the imaginary whale in his wading pool. “You’d think he’d need to use the potty! But he says he doesn’t!” Except, finally, he does. Parents and young children will be familiar with the dramatic race to the restroom, after which “the potty wins!” But dry pants are, of course, a victory for everyone. CHRISTINE M. HEPPERMANN

From the January/February 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

spector_how to peeHow to Pee: Potty Training for Boys
by Todd Spector; illus. by Arree Chung
Preschool Holt 32 pp.
4/15 978-0-8050-9773-3 $12.99 g

This lighthearted peeing primer by a family doctor/father encourages both kids and parents to add some fun to the sometimes-fraught process. In an introductory note “Dr. Todd” explains his approach. When he was potty training his son, “Abe would make up styles for using the potty, and we would try to guess what they were.” To get the creative juices flowing, the book suggests ten peeing “styles.” Take, for example, “Cowboy style”: “Step 1: Don a hat, pardner. Step 2: Find your holster. Step 3: Put your hands on your hips. Step 4: Pee-haw! Yee-haw!” There’s “Rocket style” (no hands, so stand back), “Movie Star style,” and “Firefighter style” (yes, a “hose” is involved). Bringing the whole amusing idea to life, Chung’s acrylic and Photoshopped illustrations gleefully interpret the simple four-step instructions for each technique. Spector provides reassuring advice for parents at book’s end with a few basic rules, such as “Don’t worry about a few accidents on your floor.” A helpful reminder, since the above performances can only complicate the task at hand. (In fact, as this is a book for boys, some pointers on aiming would have been useful.) Along with Mo Willems’s Time to Pee (rev. 1/04), this book hits the mark. And hopefully the kid does, too. KITTY FLYNN

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

spector_howtopeeHow to Pee: Potty Training for Girls
by Todd Spector; 
illus. by Arree Chung
Preschool    Holt    40 pp.
4/16    978-1-62779-297-4    $12.99

In this follow-up to How to Pee for boys (rev. 3/15), family doc/dad Spector offers ten peeing “styles” for girls, including “Witchy style,” “Tea party style,” “Princess style,” and “Gymnast style.” Costumes, props, and a flair for drama are encouraged; the idea is to make the potty-training process fun and less stressful for all involved. The acrylic and Photoshop illustrations animate the simple four-step instructions (“Step 1: Curtsy. Step 2: Greet your people. Step 3: Kiss the prince. Step 4: Sit upon your throne”). A two-page author’s note to parents offers some helpful and reassuring advice. KITTY FLYNN

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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