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Are You Going to Be Good? (New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books (Awards)) Hardcover – August 11, 2005
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From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 2–Robert is excited about attending Great-Gran Sadie's 100th birthday party. He knows he looks handsome in his new shirt, well-polished shoes, and going-to-a-party tie. He can't wait to eat, dance, and help celebrate the big event. But Mama, Daddy, and big sister Alice have nonstop instructions for how he should behave. When they arrive, other relatives add to the list of dos and don'ts. Robert's enthusiasm fades during a meal that he doesn't like and speeches that never end. Boredom leads to mischief such as building igloos from ice cubes. When the dancing begins, Robert finally has a chance to let out the wiggles, but his sheer energy raises a chorus of don'ts from all the relatives–except Great-Gran Sadie. She may be 100, but she still knows how to have fun with a boy who's had to sit much too long. Karas's spirited color illustrations portray the family gathering from a child's view: lots of legs and no faces, strange foods and unappetizing drinks. The book would be a perfect choice to read before or after a family gathering. The venues and reasons for such events may vary, but attempts to meet adults' expectations will resonate with most readers.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
PreS-Gr. 2. Children will identify and sympathize with young Robert, who is going to his first grown-up affair--a 100th birthday party for his great-grandmother. He's told to be good, and the list of don'ts is formidable: no running or jumping, no mumbling, and never interrupt. At the party, many other relatives take the opportunity to correct Robert's behavior, and he begins to think grown-up parties aren't much fun--especially when the chicken dinner comes covered with mushrooms and onions. When it's time for the dancing, adults try to help Robert stop his quivering, quaking, rambunctious movements--until Great-Grandma Sadie gets on the dance floor and bumps around in the same ebullient way. Karas' art verges on cartoon style as he picks out the humorous moments in the story, which is really just a situation. Part of the fun comes from the artwork's solid sense of perspective; Robert sees events from his own diminutive point of view. A good book for kids about to find themselves in similar situations. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
Robert is looking preeeety sharp. He has put on his special shirt on which, "there are pearly buttons on the ends", his tie, and even a handkerchief for his pocket. You see the family is having a party for Great-Gran Sadie who is turning 100. On the way there, everyone is telling Robert exactly how to behave. No mumbling. No talking too loud. No interrupting. And when they get there it's just a dull grown-up affair. Robert tries to loosen up and have fun by trying the fancy soaps in the bathroom or pouring the gross punch out into the flowers but everyone's giving him admonitions like, "Don't do that". He can't color on the tablecloth, or polish Great-Gran Sadie's shoes under the table. He can't make a pyramid out of ice cubes or toss olives into glasses. So when the music begins you can bet that Robert is the first one out there, shimmying and shaking and getting down. And who else should happen to join him? Well, it's the only person who's telling him, "Do that again!". Yep. It's Great-Gran Sadie. So together they kick up their heels, munch on sweet cherry berries, blow out the candles on the cake, and agree to do it all again next year.
Best has honed in on those very real situations in which young children are forced into deadly dull adult situations without so much as a toy robot to entertain them. In this particular situation, Robert our hero does many of the things we adults would love to do but can't since we "know better". I mean, how many times have you tried an appetizer and then wanted to put it back because it tasted nasty? Or avoid the chicken because, "it has mushrooms that [you] can't pick out". I think Great-Gran Sadie's reaction at the end is completely understandable. Once you hit a certain age, you just don't care what people think anymore. Consider that the consolation prize of being very young and very old. The writing is clever in that the things Robert does are only mildly naughty and real reactions any young kid might have to an overabundance of rules. You would think his parents would have at least thought to give the poor kid a coloring book, for pete's sake.
As for Mr. Brian G. Karas himself, I dare say his style is becoming even more polished as the years go by. From the very first image of Robert high-kicking it out of the bath to the faces he makes in the men's room mirror, this kid's a rebel with a cause. Karas does some mighty fine things with perspective as well. When the Robert first enters the party, all you can see is a sea of adult legs. Very adult, very dull legs. In the past, I've always kind of seen Karas as a bit messy for my taste, but darned if he hasn't honed his work down a little here. I was particularly fond of the picture where Robert has been served a dinner that includes things like onions and french fried zucchini. The whole picture takes on a greenish tinge and poor little Robert's eyes are just curlicues of swirls.
All in all, a lot of parents and a TON of children are going to recognize themselves in "Are You Going To Be Good". For the sake of the kids, I hope that parents recognize Robert's plight in the face of overwhelming (and ridiculous) grown-up demands. For kids, I hope they can see that when it comes to "being good", it's all a matter of perspective. Fine frolicsome work.