The children's picture book Agate is an example of how there can be too much of a good thing.
Recommend this product?
Agate is a moose with a self-esteem problem. She has many delightful and colorful friends whom she respects and admires. However, she is constantly comparing herself to them and believes herself to fall short.
"What good is a moose?" she asks herself, believing her to be dull and bland compared to her talented friends. She shares a poem about each of the animals from alligators to hippos to birds. Each poem is accompanied by a gorgeous watercolor (by Nikki Johnson) and each animal is named after a different gemstone.
The problem is that there are simply too many animals and too many lines for each poem. It deflates all the air in what would otherwise be a great idea for a childrens book. The format invites lightness and then the excesses weigh it down.
One of the primary criteria for a picture book is its readability and, just as essential, its re-readability. Children will demand repeated readings and this book will simply be exhausting. It isnt necessary to belabor a point. The point will get repeated as the book is read multiple times.
That said, I do think the author, Joy Morgan Dey, was trying to go for a theme. There are 12 animals, each with a different gemstone. While the relation to months and birthstones makes sense, you have to infer that on your own. If that theme is desired, then shorter poems or some sort of more overt relationship to the months would be appreciated.
Another complaint I have about this 32-page book is that it suddenly switches voices toward the end of the book. Most of the poems are told from the point of view of the moose. Toward the end, the poems begin with "we." It's unclear who the "we" refers to unless Agate has suddenly split her personality.
The story is sweet and it's certainly a healthy messagethat we can appreciate the beauty of our friends without diminishing our own beauty. While it didn't hold the interest of either my 9-year-old son or my friend's 5-year-old daughter, Joy Morgan Dey is quite good with the lyrical sound of a poem. She plays with her words and in doing so, encourages her readers to have fun with them too.
It's also hard to go wrong in using talking animals for a children's book. Despite this, it isn't a book that I'll again purchase for another child. Not when there are so many other, more readable options.