Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett Summary and Review
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Summary and Book Review
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by author Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett, is a children's book classic that will have you in stitches before you get halfway through. The book is laugh out loud hilarious, using silly and sometimes shocking visual jokes to drive the point home.
Barrett's text is simple and straight forward, and at times, even quite understated. But the illustrations take the book over the top. If the husband/wife team who wrote and illustrated this book were stand up comedians, I'd probably compare them to Penn and Teller. The text is written in a style of deadpan humor that is made hilarious by the book's illustrations.
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing is based on the very simple premise that animals don't need to wear clothes, and the illustrations show in jaw-dropping detail why it is quite impractical for animals to do so. My favorite is the hen, whose efforts to lay an egg are, shall we say, encumbered, by her attire. The words and text are easy to read, so this book could be read by children who are just learning to read. It is also appropriate for an early elementary-age group of children who usually love jokes and are developing their sense of humor.
Illustrator Ron Barrett uses realistic and detailed pen and ink drawings that use a two-toned color scheme of green and red. The visual humor in this book carries the day, and genuinely drives home the importance of an illustrator in the children's book genre. Like many low-budget books published for children originally in the 1970s, you may be tempted to overlook this laugh-out-loud hilarious children's book. Don't judge a book by its colors. This is one of the funniest children's books around. But don't take my word for it, though. If this book isn't already on your shelf, read it at your local library, or order a copy for your grand kids.
Author Judi Barrett is also well known for the off-the-wall humor in her other books: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs may be her most well-known published book, where food falls from the sky like rain in a small town.
Reading Readiness and This Book
Preschoolers—I recommend this book for reading to preschoolers. Some preschoolers might not "get" all the humor, but the short length of the text lends itself to reading over and over.
Early Elementary Ages—This book is an excellent humorous story for early elementary ages and uses repeated longer words, for early and emergent readers. A great book for a kindergarten or first grade read-aloud.
Other Books About Animals Wearing Clothes
Animals wearing clothing is a surprisingly common theme in children's literature. So much so that I have limited my suggestions to the following, though I'm sure you could find many more. One classic children's fairy tale that comes to mind is Little Red Riding Hood. In this story, the wolf dresses in the grandmother's clothing in order to trick Little Red Riding Hood.
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt is a Ukrainian folktale about a little boy who loses his mitten in the forest. A small animal climbs into the mitten to stay warm, and several other animals follow suit, stretching the mitten until it finally bursts. This older *vintage* children's picture book has charming illustrations and is a pleasant rendition of a children's folk tale, but can still in print and can be found at many libraries.
The Mitten, The Hat, and The Umbrella by Jan Brett. The first two of these books tell similar stories about animals who wear clothing in a wintertime setting. The first of these stories is similar to the Mitten published in xxx and is based on an eastern European folktale. The second story, the Hat, features Jan Brett's lovable Hedgie the Hedgehog, who gets a hat stuck on his head. All the other animals first make fun of Hedgie, but soon follow suit. The third of these stories feature rain forest animals, and is a departure in setting for Brett, but not in her unique illustration style.
Whose Clothes Are Those? by Shaheen Bilgrami (Author), Sally Chambers (Illustrator) is an appealingly illustrating lift-the-flap board book for preschoolers. In the story, children are invited to guess which animals would wear clothes that have matching patterns to their clothing. This book would be a fun complement to any of the other books in this article.
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business (Reading Rainbow Books) by author and illustrator Esphyr Slobodkina is another children's classic that features animals and clothing. In this story, a band of mischievous monkeys steal and play with a peddler's hat collection while he takes a nap under a tree.
Reading This Book Aloud to Younger Children
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing lends itself easily to a read-aloud setting. It is a book with short text, and you can easily invite audience participation. Remember as you read the story to point out the title and read it to the children by moving your hands across the text. This is an important pre-reading skill that helps kids to associate the idea that letters mean words.
When reading this book to audiences in the preschool and younger age bracket, you could do it two ways. First, do a "cold" reading, simply reading the book straight through, holding up the book so that the children can see the illustrations, and enjoy the humor.
Tell them you are going to read a story about animals. If you happen to have a good collection of animal pictures (not from the book), you could introduce the children to pictures of the animals. You might tell them something simple about the animals that will help them understand the humor in the story. "This is a hen. The hen lays eggs. This is a sheep. A sheep has warm fur called wool that keeps it warm and dry."
Or, you could show the children the pictures of each of the animals on the page. Ask the children to name the animals (by saying the name out loud). If you want, ask the children what sounds the animals make too.
A third way you could read this book to encourage audience participation is to ask the question, "Do (animal name) need to wear clothes?" in a silly and ironic tone of voice, and then read the "because...." text from the story after the children see the picture.
© 2009 Carolyn Augustine