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Review of The Itchy Book

The Itchy Book [Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!]
by LeUyen Pham; illus. by the author; with additional illustrations by Mo Willems
Primary    Hyperion    58 pp.    g
5/18    978-1-368-00564-7    $9.99

Pham’s early reader touches on herd-mentality and nonconformity in a make-believe prehistoric setting. A turtle snoozes in front of a rock etched with the words “Dinosaurs Do Not Scratch.” “Huh. You learn something new every day,” muses a passing bespectacled dinosaur kid. With instant, uncompromising absorption of that message, and further self-justification regarding the virtues of “toughness,” the dino begins spreading the word as gospel to all the other creatures. Not everyone is convinced, but they’re all impressed by their friend’s display of self-control. When the first dino dares the others to “make me itchy,” a riotous paneled sequence ensues in which classic itchy-making items (a wool sweater, dandelion fluff, sand, a cat) are lobbed at the increasingly uncomfortable creature. A twist ending clarifies (but only somewhat) the message on the rock, solving the problem at hand, but perhaps raising more questions than answers for both dinos and readers (“I wonder why dinosaurs do not scratch alone?”). Pham’s all-dialogue text and bubbly cartoon–style illustrations have lots of kid appeal, and the implicit issues raised by the story — toughness, gender roles (pay attention to who is gender-identified and who isn’t), individuality, questioning authority — are broached at a child-comprehending level.

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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