Attention to Detail!

This week we’re reading 3 fantastic picture books that teach the importance of paying attention to details!


What’s the Difference? 40+ Pairs of the Seemingly Similar by Emma Strack, illustrated by Guillaume Plantevin

What’s the Difference?: 40+ Pairs of the Seemingly Similar by Emma Strack, illustrated by Guillame Plantevin (Chronicle Books; ages 3-7)

Have you ever struggled to remember the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?  Ever wondered when an embryo becomes a fetus?  Found yourself pondering the distinction between tights and stockings?  All these answers and innumerable more are found in this fascinating book that teaches the distinctions between 42 seemingly similar pairs and the value of specific language.

This rather large book is divided into six sections: Animals, Food & Drink, Geography, Fashion, Human Body, and City.  Within each section five or more pairs sit opposite each other with bold, graphic images and palette.  A brief introduction  leads into multiple smaller images paired with factual information pertaining to associated similarities and differences — e.g. “The rabbit digs burrows and lives in colonies.  The hare is a solitary animal that lives in a nest (a small depression in the ground) or in the grass, without digging a burrow.”  Also included with each pair is a comparative chart of more formal classifications and statistics.

The overall effect is a fascinating exploration into the rationale between the pairs’ linguistic/categorical similarities and distinctions.  And a lesson in the importance of attention to detail — while two things may seem identical at first blush, there is merit to understanding their differences.  It is also a fun way to broaden one’s general knowledge base, and a sure-fire path to having your kids correct every one-humped “camel” image with a loud exclamation, “That’s a DROMEDARY!” (There are a surprising abundance of such images!)


Two wild animals, proudly bearing their antlers like crowns. Sometimes hunted and rarely tamed, reindeer (a type of deer) prefer the cool — and even the cold — over hot regions.


They taste like summer, with skin that’s white, yellow, or even deep orange. And they are as delicious eaten alone as in a fruit salad. Whether peach or nectarine, you’ll find a pit in the center that is sculpted like a work of art.


Welcome to the mysterious world of caverns! When you venture inside you may behold stalactites and stalagmites, which are the work of water, rock and time.


A heart beats — it is the breath of life. It’s so simple, but an incredible machine is working. Along with the heart, a network of pipes — veins and arteries — transport nutrients to our organs. But what is the difference between these two conduits?


You Must Bring a Hat! by Simon Philip, illustrated by Kate Hindley

You Must Bring a Hat! by Simon Philip, illustrated by Kate Hindley (Sterling Children’s Books; ages 3 and up)

Every time I read this book I am reminded of a quiz given by my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Foster.  Following a statement of emphasis about listening to ALL of the directions before writing on our papers there was a series of directions involving writing (and the sound of much scribbling).  One final instruction was then given: “Write your name on the top of the page. Do not write anything else or you will receive a zero for this quiz.”  It was . . .  memorable.

You Must Bring a Hat! opens with a boy receiving an invitation to the “HATTIEST PARTY OF ALL TIME.”  The invitation includes the time, address, host’s name (Nigel), and an emphasis that “you must bring a hat.”  The lack of hat ownership and a sold out haberdashery rapidly lead to panic.  Quick thinking and negotiating with a stubborn, hat-wearing monkey leads to the boy arriving with a guest.  And then things get wild.  Told by the doorman that the monkey cannot enter unless he is wearing a monocle, the boy is turned away.  Each time he returns, there is a new seemingly arbitrary and absurd rule that must be met.  Efforts to meet these demands lead to an increasingly humorous and ridiculous assembly of guests.  All the while, key information goes unmentioned in the text but evident in the illustrations: the house next door also has party flags with balloons; many guests are arriving next door wearing hats and bringing gifts; there’s a sign saying “Happy Birthday Nigel.”  By the end, the boy and his rather odd assortment of guests learn they have been trying to enter Felicity’s party before going on to having a blast at Nigel’s.

This book is great fun to read.  The absurd rules, impossibly coincidental encounters, and their delightful illustrations are endlessly entertaining.  The writing is paced perfectly to maintain a slightly pressured momentum, which encourages overlooking the tell-tale details of the mistaken address.  One reading is invariably followed by gasps of surprise and a close examination of the illustrations for clues.  Overall, it’s a lighthearted way to teach the value of slowing down and paying attention the first time through (and probably less distressing than my fourth grade teacher’s approach!).


But on arrival, the security was pretty tight. “Invitation, please,” said the doorman. Apparently there were other rules, too. “Sorry, sir, but we’re under strict instructions not to let in any hat-wearing monkeys . . . unless they are also wearing a monocle.”


Geoff was GREAT on the piano. But we still had a problem. “Sorry, sir, but we can’t let this piano-lending elephant in. He’s not wearing a tutu.” Just my luck! There’s NEVER a tutu around when you need one.


We solved that problem surprisingly quickly. Surely NOW we’d be allowed it? But we failed to notice the sign.   UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS A TUTU TO BE WORN WITHOUT THE SUPERVISION OF AN ACCOMPANYING PENGUIN   Ah.


“Nigel?” said the doorman. “Who’s Nigel? This is Felicity’s party.” “This isn’t number 32?” “Next door.” Oops.


Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah OHora

Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah OHora (Dial Books for Young Readers; ages 3-5)

Gemma and Dilla are neighbors on the same floor of an apartment building.  They each have shorthair, calico cats with strikingly similar yet unique patters.  Although Gemma and Dilla are unaware of their shared residence, Ralph and Niblet (their cats) are best friends.  They spend all day chatting by phone when everyone is away!  Impromptu yet simultaneous visits to the each other’s apartments (in clever, and humorous ways) leaves each cat trapped in the other’s home.  With parents who don’t notice any change, it’s up to the kids to sort it all out.  Trusting their instincts, Gemma and Dilla search out their lost pets.  Eventually Niblet and Ralph are returned to their homes, and their adventure leads to new friendships all around.

This is a delightful story paired with the wonderful and humorous art characteristic of Zachariah OHora’s.  The general premise and distinguishing characteristics of these cats (e.g. “NIBLET LOVES CHIPS AND THIS CAT DOES NOT!) have my kids in stitches every time.  The lesson about trusting your own observations and persevering even when others doubt your purpose is fantastic.  And the closing message about finding friendships in unexpected ways makes it all the better.  Overall, this would be a great introduction for young children to the importance of observing details and an excellent story time read.  BONUS: There are easter eggs in the illustrations referencing Zachariah OHora’s previous books!


This is Gemma and Ralph. This is Dilla and Niblet.


When Gemma came home after school she scooped up Ralph to hug him. But Niblet did not want to be hugged. When Dilla came home from school he got out Niblet’s favorite toy. But Ralph did not want to play.


Fake Ralph was nice enough, but Gemma missed the real Ralph. Her dad was not convinced he was gone. It was time to take matters into her own hands. Dilla liked Not Niblet, but he missed the real Niblet. His mom didn’t believe that Niblet was missing. It was time to investigate.