Review of the Day: Yes, Let’s by Galen Goodwin Longstreth
It’s tempting, when you look at the sheer number of picture books published in a given year, to assume that every topic under the white hot sun has been covered by this point in time. Tempting yes, but inaccurate, a fact any children’s librarian will attest to when facing a patron looking for, oh for example, a Quaker-centric story for two-year-olds on weaning from breast feeding. But while there will always be gaps for obscure topics, there will also always be gaps in areas you were convinced were already covered. Take family hikes. Find a picture book about a family that goes hiking for the day. Even as I type this it sounds like a no-brainer. Surely with the nation’s current fixation on health and wellness there should be loads of such books on the market. Nope. And if it were a book solely good at filling such a gap I would be on board with Yes, Let’s anyway. Yet as it happens, Longstreth and Wicks have penned a truly fun outing chock full of gentle cadences, genuine familial affection, loads of hidden details, and at least one instance of squirrel-based thievery.
“Let’s wake up extra early, / before the day gets hot. / Let’s pack a picnic, hurry up / – ready or not.” And with that we meet our intrepid family adventurers. A mom, a dad, their four kids, and a good-natured sheepdog head into the car for a day trip to a local forest for some low-key hiking. The usual trials and tribulations of moving any big family come up, but after a picnic, a dip in the local river, some games, and a hike on back to the car, the now thoroughly exhausted and happy family head on home and, justifiably, collapse as one.
I’ll confess now that unlike other picture books, my first encounter with Yes, Let’s took place years ago at a little comic convention in New York City called MOCCA. The day had, for the most part, been a bit of a bust with very little worth noting. While I love comics, my focus is on the 0-12 year-old set. The great wide swath of comics out there come nowhere close to this limited range. I would have written off the whole day as a bust book-wise had I not stumbled across a teeny tiny perfectly square self-published comic called Yes, Let’s. It was exactly what you will find in the current production. A quarter its current size, its charm leapt off the page. I was instantly enchanted but neglected to review it like I should have. Fortunately, Tanglewood Publishing picked up where I left off. Phew! Cause I can assure you that as good as this was in a snack size, it’s loads better when you can actually make out the details.
There is much to be said for the picture book that rewards rereading. And rereading. And rereading. Parents have been known to go more than a little nutso when forced by their beloved offspring to repeatedly read schlock. So much more preferable is a book like this where you actually do see something new every time. I’ve probably read this book to my own kiddo more than 15 times but even paging through it just now to review it I stumbled on the fact that the dad in the family somehow manages to be the only family member bitten repeatedly by mosquitoes in the course of the trip (a fact reflected in the final posed picture and final shot of the book itself). Did you notice that the yo-yo obsessed brother sports a “Yo-Yo Champion” t-shirt that he wears to bed? Or the owl asleep in the beginning is the same as the one at the end? I could go on. As for the artist herself, if the name “Maris Wicks” sparks a synapse in some darkened recess of your hardworking little gray cells it may have something to do with her other 2013 title of the year. That would be the young adult graphic novel Primates by Jim Ottaviani. Evidently it is a very short step from displaying uncivilized animals going nuts in nature and, you know, primates.
Text-wise it might be easy to miss the fact that the entire book consists entirely of suggestions. That is, until you reach the final (and very satisfying) answer, “Yes, let’s.” I’m not entirely certain how much input Longstreth had in terms of the family itself, of course. Showing this book a friend of mine she noticed something I had initially missed. “It’s a large family!” she cried, inordinately pleased. As the youngest child from a similarly large clan she had long since noticed how few books reflect this kind of home life. It’s not a ludicrously large one, mind you. There are plenty of picture books out there that indulge in clans so big as to be ridiculous. No Wicks has given us a realistic big family of a mom and dad, two boys, two girls, and a dog. Not exactly Cheaper by the Dozen levels, but also much bigger than most books out there. I know there will be a fair number of big families out there that rejoice in this fact.
It’s nice to once in a while encounter a picture book without subtext, ulterior motive, or snark. We’ve grown accustomed to books that break down the fourth wall or upset our expectations. There is much to be said for a book that just wants to present a day in the life of an average American family in a straightforward manner. Perfect for hikers, wannabe hikers, big families, small families, and anyone that takes delight in seeing siblings and parents take delight in one another. Shocking in its lack of shocks, hiking finally has its day.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
- Sheep Take a Hike by Nancy Shaw
- Spike and Ike Take a Hike by S.D. Schindler
- Pictures From Our Vacation by Lynn Rae Perkins
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Other Blog Reviews:
Interviews: Children’s Literary Comprehensive Database (CLCD) speaks with author Longstreth about the book’s creation.
Misc: Take a gander at the insides of this book here.
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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