Book Review: Pete the Cat and His four Groovy Buttons
|Learn more about Pete the Cat here|
Most of you are probably aware that I no longer have small children in my house, so you will probably be scratching your heads at this post. However, the beauty of a personal blog is just that: it's personal, and that means I can write about whatever I want to - in this case, a terrific children's book. As some of you know, I teach ESL a few days a week at an international school here in Seoul. My students range from barely 3 all the way up to 10 or 11, which means I need to have many tricks in my bag, one of which is storytelling. Needless to say, I'm always on the prowl for well-written, engaging books that children with even limited English abilities can understand and enjoy.
I happened upon this book a couple of weeks ago and decided that it might be fun to read to my preschool and kindergarten ESL classes. It fit the requirements for a good ESL book - great illustrations, limited - but interesting- text, and frequent repetition. It also had the bonus of incorporating numbers and a little bit of simple arithmetic, counting backwards from 4 down to zero.
All in all, I thought it had a chance of being reasonably well-received.
I was absolutely bowled over by how much the kids loved this book! I read it multiple times to each of my groups, and even the sophisticated 3rd- and 4th graders (!) were begging to hear it again. Now, granted, they may have been laughing at me using my 'cool' voice for singing Pete's Groovy Button Song, but if they were using English -I wasn't complaining. By the end of every reading, they were singing along with me and repeating the main phrases. Even the older kids shouted out the answers every time I asked, "How many buttons were left?" I also loved the peaceful good-Karma message behind the story - that things are just things, and they're not worth getting too upset about when they're gone.
The story is simple: Pete the Cat puts on his favorite shirt one morning with the 4 groovy buttons, and sings a song about them ("My buttons, my buttons, my 4 groovy buttons...") but while he's out and about each button POPs off and rolls away. After each POP, we're asked how many buttons are left, and we're reminded (in rhyme) that Pete doesn't cry - "goodness, no!-" because "buttons come and buttons go" -and 3 buttons are just as groovy! Even when Pete loses that last button, he still finds a song to sing and heads out on his surfboard.
After such an overwhelming success, I headed home and straight for the internet, where I was delighted to find not just one, but several other Pete the Cat books (including a Christmas one!), and - this was the best - some YouTube videos of the author, Eric Litwin, doing a spoken word/musical/storytelling performance of the book. Needless to say, he did it with a lot more panache than I did, but I'm not 100% convinced that my version of Pete's song wasn't just as good...
I know that, as a teacher, I always appreciate recommendations, so I thought - in this season of giving - I'd pass on the love, since I know that I number among my readers at least a few parents and grandparents of younger children who might really enjoy these books as well as at least one children's librarian (Hi, A!) and one or two other ESL teachers. If you already know about Pete the Cat, I apologize for being repetitive, but I can only say..... why didn't you ever tell me?
As it turns out, Pete has his own website which is also lots of fun.
The Pete the Cat books are published by Harper Collins and you can find links to sites for ordering here.