Monday, August 1, 2011

Books that play with your expectations: Except If and Duck! Rabbit! (ages 3 - 8)

I love books that play with your expectations, that make you take a double-take and say, "What??" Two fun books that we've enjoyed in our school library and at home are Except If, by Jim Averbeck and Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. Both have bold illustrations that pull in young readers, and both play with your expectations about what you're looking at.
except ifExcept If
by Jim Averbeck
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2011
ages 3 - 8
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or online at Amazon
It all starts with an egg, a big blue egg. "An egg is not a baby bird, / but it will become one / except if..." Turn the page and you see a tiny red snake emerging from the egg. Oh, yes, you think to yourself. Snakes hatch from eggs, too! Using this twisting pattern, Averbeck leads readers from one "gotcha" moment to the next. A snake? Well, except if it's a dinosaur. You'll think for sure the drawing is one thing - only to turn the page and find out it's really something different! It may seem deceptively simple, but young readers will love reading this puzzle again and again, tricking their parents and their friends. Averbeck builds the suspense with each page turn, and then leads readers to a satisfying ending. Head over to the wonderful blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for a great interview with Jim Averbeck, as he talks about the process he went through developing this book.
Duck! Rabbit!Duck! Rabbit!
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
CA: Chronicle Books, 2009
ages 3 - 8 (and up, really!)
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or online at Amazon
Is it a duck? Or a rabbit? What do you think? And what about you? Turn it upside down - do you see anything different? It all depends on how you look at it. This book is so much fun to read to a class, especially if you read it with a partner. The story is quite simple - two people are looking at a drawing, and one sees a rabbit, while the other sees a duck. They're absolutely sure about it, and try to convince the other of their perspective. Rosenthal's banter as the off-stage narrators argue back and forth is simple but so real. And Lichtenheld's illustrations, with absolute clearness and utter ambiguity, are perfect for encouraging your own kids to join the debate.

Have fun watching watching a little girl read an excerpt from Duck! Rabbit! Clearly, it's one of her all-time favorite books!

You can also watch the animated book trailer, which is lots of fun.

Both of these books encourage kids to think up their own puzzles, and to realize that we can play all sorts of games with our books. Both review copies came from our local library and school library. Enjoy and have fun!

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. I am a huge fan of Duck! Rabbit! Adding Except If to my TBR pile. Thanks for the review!

  2. Nice! Looks like real interesting reads. Loved the video clips too. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Two great "gotcha" picks. Duck! Rabbit! looks adorable - love the little reader in the video. :)

  4. I recently read Except If. I enjoyed it too...I have thought about highlighting it myself. Thanks for the review. :)

  5. We've previously read and enjoyed both of these picks. I bought a copy of Duck! Rabbit! at first sight. The kids never tire of looking at the illustrations.