Charlie Cook’s Favorite Book

charlie cook's favorite book

Charlie Cook’s Favorite Book, by Julia Donaldson

Reviewed by Susan Fry

At my house, bedtime can resemble warfare.  One of my sons demands books about pirates and aliens, while the other whines until he gets a ghost story and The Three Little Bears.  To satisfy everyone, we might be up all night.

Or we could just read Charlie Cook’s Favorite Book and cover all the bases.

A boy named Charlie Cook “curl(s) up in a cozy chair and read(s) his favorite book . . .”  But turn the page, and the scene changes to a book “About a leaky pirate ship/that very nearly sank/And a pirate chief who got the blame/and had to walk the plank.”  The pirate swims to a desert island and finds another book.  About what?  Goldilocks and the three bears.

Each new page of Charlie Cook leads to a completely different type of story, as the characters all pick up books of their own.  A knight reads a joke book to a dragon about a frog, a jewel thief finds a tale about a greedy crocodile, and a spaceman takes a story about a headless ghost with him all the way to Jupiter.  At the end, Charlie smiles from his chair as the characters from all the books-within-books crowd into his room.

The illustrations morph along with the stories, with sepia-toned newspaper cartoons about the jewel thief and gray-and-black tones for the ghost tale.  But Julia Donaldson’s cheerful, blocky cartoons will be familiar to fans of her other marvelous books, such as The Gruffalo.  Donaldson also offers some little touches that will make both parents and children laugh.  The end pages show all the “books” on a shelf, with titles such as Joust Joking and Tales for Jails.  And kids can hunt for clues of the books to come on the very first page.  Toy knights and spacemen lie on Charlie’s floor, and a picture of the headless ghost hangs on the wall.

Charlie Cook is the perfect appetizer sampler for a bedtime read.  Each page has just enough mini-story to satisfy a variety of appetites, but everyone will still get to bed on time.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

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