Bernard Waber's Lyle and the Birthday Party
Book review by Tamara Splingaerd
Jealous crocodile falls ill with regret after birthday party fiasco
It’s hard to find a picturebook these days that is smart, silly, and still entirely proper. I really appreciate pulling out the pre-computer classics because it’s nice to be reassured that the English language doesn’t have to be dumbed down to be hilarious. In fact, just the opposite is true.
The beauty of the Lyle the Crocodile series is that it was written in an age when it was still acceptable to pack a picture book with words. Detail, plot, emotion and character development! Wow, how can the children of today possibly trudge through this stuff??
I’ll tell you, kids have been loving Lyle the Crocodile for close to 50 years, don’t let it end with this generation. Universal themes of conflict resolution, self-control and charity never go out of style.
Book review - Lyle and the Birthday Party
The story begins with a birthday party. Not Lyle’s birthday party, however, which quickly becomes a problem. Lyle is Jealous. He “accidentally” stomps on a favorite birthday present and slinks to bed feeling more than a bit unsettled.
The next morning, poor Lyle is so horrified at his behavior the previous day that he appears quite ill. He refuses to touch his breakfast so Mrs. Primm, the family matriarch, looks at his throat. “There, just as I expected. It’s pink and scratchy-looking.”
“It’s always pink and scratchy-looking,” says Mr. Primm.
Much confusion and silliness follow and Lyle winds up as a patient in a human hospital with a possible case of “crocodilitis.”
“Ah, ah, ah, mustn’t bite the thermometer,” scolds the nurse.
Lyle is finally rid of the meanie-greenie moody blues when he sneaks out of his hospital bed and begins helping the other patients with little chores. He finds the Children’s Wing and puts on a tumbling performance (Lyle was a traveling Vaudeville performer before he was adopted by the Primms). The cure to his selfish sadness? Making Others Happy.
Don’t miss this opportunity to add Lyle to your child’s reading list. He’s sweet, kind, funny, and... well, human. There are no adverse side affects to having this crocodile as a friend. On the contrary, Lyle and the Birthday Party might actually prevent a similar illness in your own little partygoers.
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