So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury Children's Book Review
So Much, written by British author Trish Cooke and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, is a literal and figurative celebration of family love. Much of the story occurs while the baby greets extended family members who are arriving for daddy's surprise birthday party. This book is over-sized and adapts well to a read aloud setting. Cooke, with the help of Oxenbury's expressive illustrations, portrays the entire day from the baby's viewpoint, with the baby at the center of the family universe.
As an aside, my toddler recently woke up very cranky from his afternoon nap. I led him to the bookshelf and pulled him into my lap. I read this book aloud to him. The story held his rapt attention, and he smiled and clapped at the antics of the story's protagonist--a young toddler like himself.
The story revolves around a young toddler "Baby", his mom, and their relatives as they individually arrive at his house for a surprise party. As each relative greets the baby, he or she expresses love in an individual way. Aunty wants to squeeze the baby. Nanny and Gran-Gran want to eat the baby, and Cousin wants to fight the baby (playfully, of course). By the time all the guests have arrived, all of baby's senses have been engaged, and he knows that everyone loves him "So Much!"
But the story doesn't end there. Baby's family knows how to party, even before the guest of honor arrives. And at the end of the day, when everyone has gone home, baby resists going to bed (a nice, realistic touch), but happily remembers all of the family members who love him so much.
This is a wonderful read-aloud story that requires you to let go of inhibitions. Don't be afraid to read this one loudly. The African American syntax requires that you put your heart into the reading.
"And she sat the baby
on her knee
to play clap-clap,
stamp your foot.
Then she read him a book.
Helen Oxenbury's vibrant illustrations capture the joyful celebratory mood of this story's extended family. Look closely at the characters' faces, and see the baby's delight captured in vibrant color and in ink illustrations. Oxenbury captures a tremendous amount of love between the pages of this text. No doubt this is a modern classic.
- Surprise Party
This book has many repetitive phrases. The book's lengthy text includes many repeated words and sight words. However, the story is written in an African American dialect that, although is intended for read-aloud, may be more challenging for beginning readers unfamiliar with this particular flavor of English speech.
I strongly recommend that anyone who is presenting this book in an educational setting practice reading the story aloud a few times before presenting it.
This is a longer story than I would usually read to a toddler (age 2-3) audience, but the subject matter and repeated words and phrases make the story seem shorter than it actually is in a read-aloud setting. As I mentioned earlier, my toddler sat and listened to the entire story, which is unusual for him.
This book will be a challenging read-aloud text for many beginning second graders, and some adults!
More Recommended Children's Books
Explore one of my other children's picture book recommendations here.
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett · A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams · Babies by Gyo Fujikawa · Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin and Eric Carle · Charley Harper's ABCs by Charlie Harper · Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons · Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes · Daughter of a King by Rachel Ann Nunes · Excuse Me! By Lisa Kopelke · Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat · Harry and The Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach · Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson · I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll · I'd Choose You by John Trent · Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback · King of Kings by Susan Hill · Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman · Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes · Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney · Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney · Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle · No David! by David Shannon · Olivia by Ian Falconer · Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier · Snowballs by Lois Ehlert · So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury · Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch · The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone · The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle · The King With Six Friends by Jay Williams · The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman · The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges · The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell · The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy · The Red Shoes a Fairy Tale by Gloria Fowler and Sun Young Yoo · The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats · Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel · Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White · Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak · Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits