Review of the Day: Good Egg by Barney Saltzberg
You know, in the old days a children’s librarian would sooner saw off her right arm than be caught adding a “novelty” book to her children’s room. We are the standard bearers. The folks who can distinguish the gold from the crapola. We are now and always have been the arbitrators of taste. The problem with being an arbitrator? Well, sometimes the really good stuff that also happens to be fun gets lost in the mix. Take the “novelty” book. The term usually applies to any book that has some kind of cheery, silly element to it. Pat the Bunny is a novelty book. Anything that involves feeling, pushing, testing, or smelling a story would constitute a novelty book. Pop-up books would even, under the strictest definition of the term, be considered novelties. But times have changed. Librarians now acknowledge that hiding within the silliest premise is the chance to get a kid engaged in a book. Think of novelty books as the gateway drugs to literature. And if you follow that metaphor to its logical conclusion, Barney Saltzberg’s Good Egg is one delightfully addictive little creation.
This is where I tend to summarize the book before me. This one’s pretty direct. An egg is given a series of instructions. It’s very good at “sit” (lifting the page shows it to be in the same spot). Good egg! “Lie down” means that pulling a tab lets the egg lean to the side. Good egg! Roll over, shake, and catch are all demanded (“catch” is a particularly clever spread). Finally, the egg is told to speak. Pull the tab and a crack appears. “Speak!” the book demands, forcefully. Two little eyes poke out of the egg. Turn the page at last and a chick has emerged, cheeping its little head off. Good egg!
Generally I have a hard time reviewing the shortest of the short picture or board books because (and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this) I am wordy. How much can a person really say about a book that’s only 17 or so pages in length? Well, first things first. Is Good Egg any (for lack of a more appropriate term) good? I think so. I like the simplicity of it all. This is a book that goes for a fun and simple gag at the end that small children will not see coming. Saltzberg is aiming for a pretty young audience, so the novelty elements have to not only work in terms of construction, but the book itself has to be attractive to small tykes. The die-cut cover will help in this way. And the colors are good. The pages are usually cut into two different colors with the pure white egg resting on the horizontal line between them. There are few words, but they get right to the point. Basically, if you’re a parent you’re going to be able to read this book over and over and over to your delighted miniature audience without the desire to strangle yourself when they ask for it again. Not even once.
The book has been designed and lettered by one Netta Rabin who has done a thorough job. Words are clear and easy to read. Each “trick” the egg pulls is unique, and works. There’s also the sheer toughness of the construction. As a librarian my concern when I see something with flaps and tabs is how long it will circulate in my system before it has to be thrown out. One time? Two? Good Egg has the distinction of being a particularly sturdy little construction, I’m pleased to say. It’s not a board book, of course. So kids definitely have the chance of rending it asunder. But I liked that the pull-tabs weren’t flimsy little flecks of cardboard, held together with spit and glue. When the book tells the egg to lie down, the tab you pull turns out to be almost as wide as the book itself, and consists of a thick purple construction. The “roll over” command has a smaller tab. And with the egg turning and flipping, this will probably be one of the first parts of the book to go. Even so, I was pleased to see that even the pop-up element at the end is firmly ensconced between the last two pages. And while it might be possible to pull out the baby chick’s arms if you were really determined to do so, it’s not going to happen easily.
This is one of those reviews where someone inevitably tells me “Hey! Your review is longer than the book!” That’s cause I’ve a lot to say about books I actually enjoy reading. Does it have any problems to speak of? I dunno. I mean, it’s a pretty short plot. Moby Dick it ain’t. If you’re looking for melodrama and a book that captures the heart of the American novel, I have bad news for you. This ain’t it. If, on the other hand, you want a fun book to amuse small kids with, which also happens to sport interactive elements and slick graphic design, happy days are yours again. Good Egg is a keeper.
On shelves now.
- Creative Literacy
- Let(t)’er Rip
- Cats… Books… Life is Good
- Good Books for Kids
- Cool Mom Picks
- We LOVE Kids Books
- The New York Times
- Liverpool Echo.co.uk
- The Imperfect Parent
- Squeaky Stroller
- Parenting Without Tears
- Keep tabs on Barney Saltzberg through his blog, if that’s your notion.
- And who can resist this video?:
Filed under: Reviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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