Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Picture Book Review - What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins

Ah, routine. It is the stuff of the young child's life. Why is it that kids so often crave the knowledge of what is happening next? I tend to think it's because so little in their world is within their control (hence the tantrums when you unwittingly grab the wrong red shirt for them to wear - but that's another post). Think about it: when you're the littlest one, most of the decisions in your life are made for you. And so if you can't control what happens, no matter how stormy the tantrum, the next best thing is at least being able to anticipate what's coming when.

Sprout is certainly a creature of habit. Although he does bounce back rather well from some changes in routine, we try to do everything we can to prepare him for those changes. As I blogged about here, we recently moved to a new preschool, and so we spent a lot of time reading books about preschool and what happens when. This bit of biblio-intervention was very helpful in transitioning him from daycare to a much more structured and rule-centered environment, where he is absolutely thriving.

One of the books we encountered in the search for preschool themes is Emily Jenkins' What Happens on Wednesdays, a picture book that follows a young girl through one entire day. I've always loved the idea of documenting a day top to bottom - I would love to do that with Sprout, taking pictures of all the moments big and small that happen throughout the course of a typical day in his life. And that's precisely what Jenkins has done with Wednesdays, as her heroine narrates exactly what transpires for her on the same day of each week. From early morning wake-up with Mommy, to breakfast with Daddy at the dog park, to preschool, to swimming at the pool and visiting the library, to being tucked into bed at night, it's all here, a child-centric snapshot of Wednesday.

Sprout adores this book, as much for the carefully articulated word choice as for the perfectly detailed recitation of the day's events. Jenkins captures the voice of a preschooler with amazing clarity, noting all the small elements that are important to a child ("We buy an orange juice that comes with a special little straw. . .") and glossing over the boring grownup stuff ("Mommy goes around straightening things. . . "). He drinks in every bit of this young girl's world, totally mesmerized by Lauren Castillo's realistic yet softened illustrations just as he is by the story. I love the neighborhood Jenkins and Castillo have rendered, brought to life through the alchemy of their talents. Jenkins points out the landmarks in the text and Castillo carefully depicts every element of this child's world in pictures that kids will thoroughly enjoy poring over.

While managing to keep the focus always on our narrator, Castillo still gives us a glimpse of the world outside the spotlight, with other tables of children eating lunch and other families going about their own daily routine. This is a book I've truly been thrilled to read over and over to Sprout, as each time I take away something new. What Happens on Wednesdays is a great jumping-off place for discussing your family's day-to-day activities, noting who goes where and what they do in the process. You may just decide to create your own "day-in-the-life" project, maybe in the form of a slide show or blog post, or maybe a picture book much like this one. (If you do, drop us a line - we'd love to share it!)

What happens on Wednesdays in your life is very likely much different from what occurs in Jenkins' charming picture book -- and really, that's the fun!

What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Ages 2-6
Source: library
Sample: "I sit on the counter while Mommy makes coffee. Then she drinks her coffee and I drink my milk and maybe we have some strawberries while we read stories on the couch. When the clock says six, we wake up Daddy. Which can take a long time."

Bonus: an interview with Emily Jenkins, a Favorite Writer of the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

No comments: