How is it that I haven't heard of Linda Ashman before now? She's been publishing books since 2001 and people have been raving about her all over the internet, but I heard of her first from a blog a few weeks ago and decided she was worth reading. What an understatement! She is amazing! Linda Ashman writes children's books that are such great fun that I read them to my kids and to myself over and over again. I checked out four of her books, out of several that she's written.
The first book we read was Stella, Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse, illustrated by Paul Meisel. This is a collection of poems from the viewpoint of Stella, the dog. Ashman obviously knows dogs well because you felt like you really were seeing the world the same way Stella must see it. There were some seriously funny ones in there, like when Stella meets the pretentious prize poodle, and some sweet ones, like how Stella feels about the little boy who loves her. I loved that Stella didn't think the parents were all that smart because they didn't understand her obvious communications. This book almost made me wish we had a dog. Then I snapped out of it.
The second was The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, which is illustrated by David Small. It's full of poems about different creatures and monsters from around the world. I only recognized a handful of them, and that's saying a lot. I had an obsession with all things creepy when I was in elementary school, but I never came across some of the ones in this book. I worried that it was a bit too scary for my kindergartner and preschooler, but they reassured me that it wasn't that scary. And really, Ashman's poetry makes it lighter than what the illustrations depict. I loved this book and I know my seven-year-old will love it (also obsessed with monsters and such), but I'd stay away if you have kiddos who aren't as fascinated and would be frightened by it.
The third and probably my favorite was M is for Mischief: and A to Z of Naughty Children, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Ashman writes a poem describing a naughty child for each letter of the alphabet and instead of coming across as preachy, it was hilarious. I've seen kids like this and my own children have had their own Picky Penelope, Eavesdropping Eva, Zany Zelda, and Doodling Daphne moments. My kids read this book with me with wide eyes and I thought the poems and descriptions weren't so over the top that they couldn't be real. Another aspect that makes this my favorite was Carpenter's illustrations. She brilliantly combines photos and drawings and makes these naughty children pop out from the pages.
The only book I checked out that wasn't all poems was Desmond and the Naughty Bugs, illustrated by Anik McGrory. I couldn't find a picture of the cover online, so you'll have to use your imagination. Still more fun, still very entertaining to see what kind of bugs would cause poor Desmond to change from a very obedient boy to one that squirms and whines, dawdles and complains, but I think I prefer the poems. Ashman just has a way with metered rhyme that dances across my brainpan and puts a skip in my step.
In addition to her brilliant writing, Ashman has great taste in illustrators. Do authors get to pick? If so, kudos to her. David Small is one of my favorites, Nancy Carpenter is a new favorite, Anik McGrory was delightful, and even though Paul Meisel didn't thrill me to death, my children loved it. Just now, I quizzed my five and three-year-olds on which of the four was their favorite and they both agreed that Stella, Unleashed was the best. It could be my children's collective obsession with getting a dog, but the poems were absolutely wonderful too. The books I would buy. Not a dog. Have I mentioned I don't want a dog?