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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Because (As My Good Friend Pete Would Say) It's All Good

If you do not know who Pete the Cat is, please stop reading this blog right now, I'm serious stop reading. Put on your shoes, turn off the lights, pick up your keys and proceed immediately to the nearest book store or library. Walk in and go straight to the customer service desk and tell them you need Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean. Any Pete book will do after that but start with I Love My White Shoes. Go find a quiet spot and prepare to giggle, to be charmed and even to rock out a little with this deceptively simple picture book.

If you have ignored the sage advice above and are still reading this, then in the interest of advocating children's literacy (and all things groovy) I shall continue. Pete The Cat is a cat. He's a blue cat. He's a groovy blue cat. He's a groovy blue cat who loves his white shoes. Are you with me so far? One day he's out for a stroll. He's just walking around (with a guitar of course) singing a little ditty about his white shoes and how much he loves them. When the unthinkable happens - he steps in the largest pile of strawberries you've ever seen. His white shoes? Well they aren't white any more. They are of course red. It is how Pete reacts to this unexpected transition is what makes Pete so darn awesome. He doesn't freak out. He doesn't throw a tantrum. He doesn't demand a brand new pair of white shoes. He just changes his tune up a bit. Now he's walking along singing about loving his red shoes until once again the unthinkable happens. He steps in a gigantic mound of blueberries. Once again he keeps walking along - singing about, you guessed it - how much he loves his blue shoes. Other mishaps occur and the shoes continue to change throughout the story. You get the idea. The moral of Pete the Cat, as Litwin and Dean tell us, is that no matter what you step in you just keep on walking along, singing your song, because it's all good.

I think this is a wonderful life lesson. It comes packaged in an adorable cat, silly shoes and sing-song text, but it is still a life lesson. One that while aimed at the preschool set is one that all children and adults struggle to understand. Pete's groovy attitude towards the unexpected twists and turns he encounters is a model that we can all strive to follow. His personal philosophy isn't the only reason to love Pete, however. Underneath that Rolling-with-Punches lesson are some important educational elements.

Litwin's story moves quickly using repetition, song, and simple cause and effect prediction making this an extremely interactive book. Most kiddos just love, love, love to be a part of the story. Meanwhile, Dean's illustrations make Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes a fantastic first primer for learning colors. Most of the illustrations stick to the primary colors with shades of brown, green and of course white, thrown in for good measure. The bright, cheerful colors grab kids attention and really hold them to the page. The illustrations themselves are playful and fun. They depict one aspect of the story at a time. As much as I love intricate illustrations for older kids I find that simpler is really better with those kiddos who are first learning to sit for stories.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes is not the only Pete the Cat book. Happily there are three other full length picture books currently available. Pete the Cat: Rocking In My School Shoes is about going to school for the first time. It is a perfect book to read as kiddos head back to the classroom this fall. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons offers a great first introduction to counting and simple math. There is also a cute Christmas book called Pete the Cat Saves Christmas. Currently, all of these books (in extremely loved and tattered states) live on our bookshelf along with an assortment of Pete the Cat beginning readers and a Pete the Cat version of the Wheels on the Bus that came out this spring and summerWe are excitedly waiting the arrival of a new full length picture book called Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses which is due out in October (Yay!).

So if you don't already have a Pete book then it is seriously time to stop reading and get yourself to a bookstore. I promise that your toddlers and preschoolers will be captivated by Pete and so will you because to know Pete the Cat is to love Pete the Cat. I mean, c'mon what's not to love about an Uber groovy, guitar playing, surfing blue cat?

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