Friday, August 26, 2011

Picture Book Review - A New Barker in the House by Tomie dePaola

Beloved author and illustrator Tomie dePaola weaves adoption into the storyline of A New Barker in the House, part of his series about the Barker family. Mama, Papa, Morgan and Moffat are excited to be adding a new member to their family: three-year-old Marcos. The twins cannot wait to show their new brother all their favorite toys, and especially want to take him to show-and-tell at their school. They begin to think about all the fun they will have together.

But when Marcos comes home with Papa, he speaks Spanish, which Morgie and Moffie can't understand. And the only English word Marcos knows is "potty", but he uses that one a lot! Marcos doesn't like the things the twins like, and he doesn't want to play ball or dolls either. Mama gently explains that Marcos may not want to eat the same food, or play the same games, and encourages the twins to ask Marcos what he wants to do. Before long Marcos and the twins are playing together on the playground, and everyone is learning how to speak one another's language.

As always, dePaola's illustrations are bright and expressive, homey depictions of the contented Barker family at home together. The layout makes use of panels to represent the various characters' points of view, especially effective when demonstrating how the twins each want to share their own favorite things with Marcos. The discussion of adoption is brief and straightforward; dePaola assumes that the audience understands what adoption's about, and doesn't get bogged down in lengthy explanations. Rather, this title focuses on the transition of a new child into a family, and the way siblings must learn to accommodate and appreciate their brother or sister's preferences. If the storyline resolves quickly, that is to be expected for the intended age group. The big benefit is that dePaola opens up plenty of opportunities for further discussion and examination.

Bottom line: Overall, a good title to introduce the topic of adoption to a family, and get siblings thinking and talking about what the new family member may want or need. Sensitive, gentle and thoughtful, A New Barker in the House is another well-rounded title from a favorite author!

A New Barker in the House by Tomie dePaola, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
Ages 2-6
Source: Library
Sample quote: "The next morning at breakfast, Morgie gave Marcos a big spoonful of Morgie's favorite cereal - Dino Pops. Marcos didn't like it! Moffie gave Marcos a big spoonful of her favorite cereal - Alphabet Bits. Marcos didn't like it. Marcos SPIT it all out! 'Mama!' the twins yelled."

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