“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Katie Helps Mom / Kevin Helps Dad • Picture books

Katie Helps Mom and Kevin Helps Dad
written and illustrated by Liesbet Slegers
Just out! Spring 2010 Published by Clavis Books / distributed by IPG   Ages 3-6
Stories for children ages 30 months and up about special days and helping others -- with a special focus on the child's world.
Story:  On their special day home alone together, Katie and her mother have many things planned:  washing the windows, lunching in the garden, buying new shoes. Katie is so grateful that she makes her mother a beautiful drawing. Kevin and his dad spend the day together using the drill, washing the car, making dinner for mother, and taking time to play together with Kevin’s toys.With fun and colorful illustrations, children will share the excitement that a day home alone with a parent can bring. 

That these books are so seemingly simple is just right for the kindergarten and under set.  Katie and Kevin's activities (helping around the house, for instance) are perfect for young children:  they mirror their world as they take steps to be independent and "do it" themselves.  Perhaps these stories could be used to prompt kids to think about and share what they would do to help their teacher, neighbor, friend, sister/brother, grandparent? Or what they would like to do if they had special time with a special someone?
Story behind the story:  Based in Belgium, Clavis Books is an independent children's book publisher that has been publishing books for kids (and only kids) for over thirty years.  They believe "the world of tomorrow will resemble the dreams of today's children" and so they "owe it to the future generation to do their best to provide today's children with an imaginative, stimulating and safe environment.  Books that are close to kids and their emotions are a perfect tool to achieve this goal and this mission informs everything we publish."  While they've sold books internationally for many years (and many of their authors and illustrators have been published in the US before), Clavis has just started to release their titles here and looks forward to hearing from school and library professionals.  Feel free to share your thoughts (and keep up with special promotions from the publisher) by following them on Twitter (@clavisbooks).

Liesbet Slegers is a graphic designer, a children's book illustrator, and the author of Guess What I'm Doing, Guess Where I Am, Katie Moves, Kevin Discovers Spring, and Kevin Goes to School, among many others.  Here she's painting a mural of another of her characters at a local school.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Anonymous said...

I give these books a "4". They are very cute stories about a boy spending the day with his dad and a girl spending the day with her mom. They have appealing illustrations and a nice size font that would allow a child who is reading level 2/3 books to read this to a younger sibling.
My only complaint was the closing pages seemed to end the story abruptly.

Wayne said...

A cute pair of stories about a day with mom for a girl and a day with dad for a boy. I'm wavering between a 3 and 4 because the language seems a little stilted, although I'm certain a portion of that is due to the books being translated from Dutch to English. I agree with the previous poster that the stories simply end abruptly. Overall, a nice pair of stories for early readers with main characters they can relate to.

School Librarian, Texas

Anonymous said...

These stories are very cute. I love the illustrations! The colors are so bright and fun! I think they are very age appropriate. I give these stories a 4.

-1st grade teacher, Philadelphia PA

Carrie Blagg said...

These books are perfect for little ones. The illustrations are cute, colors bright, and perfect in keeping the attention of young children. I give these books 4/5.

Carrie Blagg, Librarian Assistant
Paradise Valley, AZ

Laura _SPED Teacher said...

I give these books a 3.5/4. The books were very colorful and the illustrations were cute and matched the story. however, the langauge/writing style was a bit tough for the younger crowd to digest.

SunshineFamily said...

These stories are cute. They have colorful and engaging pictures for toddlers. I am concerned by the the stereotypical roles they place on the two children. I think these books would be a welcome addition to a daycare or preschool setting but they are too limiting, leaving the girls working on the laundry and the boys using the power tools. Girls and boys need to feel that there is no gender attachment to these tasks. I could not in include these in a classroom for this reason. 1/5

Julia Pitau said...

I just received a set of the Kevin and Katie books and was immediately taken in by the bright, inviting colors on the covers. What did I enjoy? So much. A little boy and his dad just hanging out together doing "boy stuff" but not limiting it to only male things. Then there were Katie and her mom working and shopping together. I liked the way the stories show how children immulate their parents. The story line encourages discussion between parents and their children as they read it together. I hope to add more of this collection to our library. And thank you for the rounded corners.

Picnic Rating: 4

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Angela said...

I just received the Katie and Kevin books and was thrilled when I saw the bright and engaging illustrations, meaningful end pages, and I thought the size and the thickness of the paper was just right for little ones. I was left disappointed after reading them however. The language is simple and general, saying things like "a great day", "fun things", "many other things", etc. Even beginning writers are taught to 'show, don't tell' in their details and these books have a lot of telling rather than showing. The sentence lengths were all pretty short, disrupting the fluency of the piece. I read these to my three year old daughter who loves books and she was disinterested. Like some of the other posters I was surprised by the stereotypical male/female roles that this book perpetuated. In trying to look for a bright spot I would say that these books would be good for beginning readers and I could see using them as a model for how a story might be organized over the course of a day. I really wanted to be saying more glowing things about these ones, but...

Susan Appleton said...

I think these 2 books are just adorable! The graphics are colorful and big and the font is big too so that young readers can follow along easily. I would like to see more books like these maybe where the boy is helping the MOm and the daughter is helping the father.....other than that, they were FANTASTIC and I would rate them a 4 out of 5 (it would have been a 5 out of 5 if the gender roles were not so traditional)

Anonymous said...

I love the illustrations - colorful, bright and attention grabbing. Overall I have to give these books a 3.5 rating due to the vocabulary. It is a bit difficult for the intended age level. Although I encourage vocabulary buiding words, these books tend to use words that would confuse a young child.

LifeLongLearner said...

When I realized that these primary books were originally written in the Dutch language and then translated to English, it helped me understand the word choices. I find it difficult to overlook the gender stereotypes that are evident in both books. The durable pages and colorful illustrations are appealing to young eyes and hand. I give these stories a 4 and will be curious to see how our preschoolers interact with the text.

Margo Jantzi
Cub Run Librarian, Virginia

linda said...

I was disappointed in these books. The illustrations and print seemed to be so inviting, but the text was not. I found them to promote stereotype images of men/women such as “mom” and perfume, vacuuming, having lunch out, buying shoes while “dad” worked with the son to do “manly” things such as drill holes and make dinner for a change after all the work was done. In addition, the young girl was riding on her mom’s bike without any helmet and playing with a balloon! Not safety conscious, whether it was translated from Dutch or not.

linda said...

I was disappointed in these books. The illustrations and print seemed to be so inviting, but the text was not. I found them to promote stereotype images of men/women such as “mom” and perfume, vacuuming, having lunch out, buying shoes while “dad” worked with the son to do “manly” things such as drill holes and make dinner for a change after all the work was done. In addition, the young girl was riding on her mom’s bike without any helmet and playing with a balloon! Not safety conscious, whether it was translated from Dutch or not.

Lisa said...

As a classroom teacher, these are not books I would share with my students. The language is very simple and awkward in places. The stories really lack voice. The idea of the girl helping the mom with vacuuming and shopping while the boy helps the dad in the garage does seem stereotypical. I would rate the books a 1 out of 5.

booktoo said...

"Kevin Helps Dad"...make dinner for his mom who is coming home from her job. The illustrations are fun and delightful. The stories are actually non stories. In "Katie Helps Mom" it runs like a to-do list. wash the windows , buy new shoes, etc. Somehow Amazon.com has this book for ages 9-12.???? I really enjoyed the pictures and would probably have my preschoolers make up their own stories as I share the images.

loonyhiker said...

I would give the books 3 out of 5. I love the bright colors and the pretty pictures. I thought the font that was used was appealing too. The stories in both were very upbeat and happy which I think is important when reading to and with children. The problem I had was the stereotyping of boys helping Dad and girls helping Mom. I think it would have been better to have Kevin helping Dad with some stuff and Mom with some things. The story gives an underlying implication that boys don’t do those things that girls do and vice versa. For entertainment, I think these books would be cute for children but I would not use them in a classroom.

Pat Hensley
Greenville, SC

Anonymous said...

I was not very impressed with these books and give them a 2. The language was choppy and didn't have a good rhythm or flow. The gender stereotypes were unnecessary. The stories end abruptly.

On the positive side, the illustrations were bright and cheery. The book itself was sturdy and would withstand a toddlers handling.

Heather Hart, Children's Librarian

Anonymous said...

I would give these two books a 3 in my picnic basket. They were very cute and very colorful for young children. I enjoyed that the characters got to spend the day with their mom or dad, but felt that the roles played by the parent were very traditional. I would have like to see the characters move away from the stereo typical jobs taken on by parents. Dad took the day off to do chores with Kevin and Mom had Katie help around the house doing the everyday chores.

Susan Mello said...

I would give these books a 2. While the pictures are colorful and bright the text will not entertain anyone. The storyline is stereotypical and sexist. It is sad really. The opportunities were there for the book to break many stereotypes. Why was the father taking the day out of work and not the mother? Why didn't the mother "fix" something. The attempt was made towards the end of the "Kevin helps Dad" to have the father peel potatoes. But it was too late and only a supplement for dinner (and not a healthy one either). It can be assumed that the mother must finish preparing a meal and cleaning the dishes. I don't think these are the messages that we should be sending to our children. Unfortunately...in real life these are probably the exact messages that we send to our children. Hence the genesis of the problems in society.

Heather Hill said...

I wonder if "Katie Helps Mom/Kevin Helps Dad" are reflections of society in Belgium and Holland, where they were originally published? Like many other readers, I thought the size of the books, their sturdiness, and the illustrations were very appealing. I was disappointed with the choices of words and phrases, which were often awkward, and the simplistic storyline. Kids today get to read and listen to imaginative and unique stories. Katie and Kevin do not fall into either of those categories and probably wouldn't get much traffic in a classroom library. I give the books a 2 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Carol said...

I wanted to like these books more. The bright colors and thick glossy pages made the books toddler friendly, but that is where it ended for me. Like others, the gender bias stood out to me and was hard to over look. There was a lot of text and not much depth to the illustrations,and that made me not want to read the books again.

K-8 librarian, Maine

Mrs. Horne said...

My son LOVED these books...he carried them around for days asking us to read and re-read them to him!

I also felt like the stories ended too abruptly, it was a little choppy at the end. I liked the vivid colors, but thought some of the language was a little tough to be reading to a very young child.

Rating: 4

Anonymous said...

These are very cute books. I am a new teacher. At the time I requested them, I was unsure about the grade I would teach this year. I am going to teach 4th grade, so I decided to share them with a kindergarten teacher. She loved them! I'm sure her kids will enjoy listening to or reading them by the end of the year. Thanks Picnic Basket for sharing these wonderful books.
Rating 5/5

M. Battista said...

These books are adorable! It's disheartening that so many people find traditional gender roles so taboo in children's books. It is refreshing when characters do something a little unexpected, but it's also nice to see kids and parents enjoy simple things regardless of stereotypes. Go Katie & Kevin! I'm sure our young readers will enjoy these additions to our library.

Rating- 3.5

M. Battista
Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

lemon the duck said...

Cute illustrations --engaging and colorful. Some of the language was cute, but overall I found the stories lacked excitement and were too wordy for the age group. Some of the vocabulary was a bit advanced as well. I would've preferred a daughter/father and son/mom match-up as well.
I rate this book a 2 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School