By the end of the new children’s book “I Would Tuck You In,” by locals Sarah Asper-Smith and Mitchell Watley, I really did want to snuggle my son like a brown bear or grow eight arms so I could hold him like an octopus.
The book is a fine balance of playful and endearing. It’s concise while still being educational. And for a four-year-old with the attention span of a gnat, it has it all: bright illustrations that are life-like, instead of cartoonish; enough variety to stave off boredom and no wording that is so long the wiggles set in.
From page one, the book introduces readers to the wildlife of our northern region. There are snowshoe hares, bowhead and humpback whales, brown bears, caribou, little brown bats, boreal owls and arctic terns, just to name a few. Each animal is highlighted with a distinguishing feature and a little fact.
One night last week, my son and I sat down to review our hardbound copy.
We turned to page one, which features an illustration of an underwater scene with two octopi, their tentacles intertwined.
I began to read.
“If you were an octopus ... I would grow eight arms to hold you.”
My son looked at me and smiled.
“That’s silly, Mom,” he said.
I smiled back, then continued reading.
“To avoid predators, the common octopus can lose an arm and regrow it later on.”
No reaction. I turned the page.
“If you were a brown bear … I would snuggle next to you all winter long.”
Just then, I felt his little hands sneak up and around my arm. He put his head on my shoulder.
And so we continued reading each page. Each began with “If you were … ” and featured a little fact about that particular bird or beast.
We even read it again, per his request.
But the second time, he wasn’t as snuggly as the first. This time (and every time afterward, as it turned out) he was more interested in the facts than anything else. If I tried to skip those details, he caught me.
“Hey Mom!” he said. “You missed this part.”
“Oh, right … ” I said.
Those little animal facts are part of what makes the book a success, I think. They add an opportunity for education and allow the book to be read to a broader range of young audiences.
The illustrations, too, are a learning opportunity. They are detailed and lifelike, showing each of the animals in their typical habitat. Even the muskox look cold in their frozen tundra scene.
When we finished the book, I asked my son what he thought and asked him to pick his favorite page.
He liked the bowhead whale page.
“What’s your favorite, Mom?” he asked.
I chose the humpback whales.
“We both like whales!” he said.
Indeed. We laughed.
In all, I’d say it’s a triumph for this creative husband-wife team. It’s the second book for Asper-Smith, who published “Have You Ever Seen a Smack of Jellyfish?” (Sasquatch Books) in 2010. This is Watley’s first children’s book.
The book was published this year by Sasquatch Books. It is available in hardcover at the Alaska Robotics Gallery on Front Street, or wherever fine books are sold for $16.99.