Great Jake Books


‘Jake’ Books by Michael Wright

Reviewed by Susan Fry

Authors of books for young children are faced with a problem:  they need to write both for kids and for the adults who read to the kids.  These are two very different audiences.  My sons, for example, like poop jokes.  Me?  Not so much.  But I do really enjoy politics.  You see the problem.

Luckily, there’s Michael Wright and his series about a little boy named Jake.  Jake and his parents wrestle with some of the most frustrating aspects of childhood in a way that’s sympathetic – and funny – to both sides of the age divide.

Much of the humor comes through the illustrations.  Jake hides under a tablecloth to escape a spoonful of peas.  A dog slides off the roof as the family tries a new place to sleep.  And did I mention the mom’s dandelion-poof of blonde hair, a hairstyle to rival Marge Simpson’s?

Passing references to poop and gas will have kids in stitches.

The members of the oblong cartoon family also have amazingly human expressions.  Jake’s wide-eyed looks convey fears and insecurities; his parents’ half-lidded eyes indicate an exasperation that will be all-too familiar to adult readers.  The parents’ willingness to do anything to make their son happy will be familiar, too.

Jake Stays Awake, by Michael Wright.  To co-sleep or not to co-sleep?  Jake parents would rather not.  But Jake knocks on their door every night and won’t go away.  “We love you, dear Jake, but we can’t even doze.  How can we sleep with your toes up our nose?”  After Jake’s endearingly floppy body stretches over both parents’ faces, they come up with a solution:  “We’ll sleep with you, son, just not in our bed.”  But the hilarious locations they choose for snoozing – the roof, the stairs, the bathtub – are so uncomfortable they drive Jake right back to his own bed.

Jake Starts School, by Michael Wright.  Who cries harder the first day of preschool,  parents or children?  In this book, it’s Jake.  The door to his new classroom looms over him, and when his teacher speaks, Jake screams and flees.  When he wraps himself around his parents’ knees and won’t let go, the parents have to join Jake in class:  the three of them sit uncomfortably in the same seat and precariously ride the same tricycle.  Finally, the teacher makes a breakthrough, and Jake lets go and begins to enjoy school.

Jake Goes Peanuts, by Michael Wright.  How do you get your kids to eat new foods?  Jake manages to evade his parents’ best efforts, hiding in a tree, gagging, and even spitting the food right out (as his parents use plates and pots as shields).  The one thing Jake will eat is peanut butter, so his parents begin adding it to everything.  After a week of “peanut butter pot roast served with peanut butter rice . . . . peanut butter soda chilled with peanut butter ice,” Jake is finally ready to try something different.

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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