A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

Shannon, David. 1998. A Bad Case of Stripes. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0439598389.

Camilla Cream loves lima beans but cares too much what other people think of her. She wakes up on the first day of school to discover that she is covered in stripes. She stays home from school to go to the doctor who says he thinks she can go the next day. It turns out that Camilla’s stripes can change by request and the other children taunt her when she changes to match the flag or a checkerboard. After seeing lots of different people who think they can help including specialists and experts, it is finally determined that she has “a bad case of stripes” and need to only eat lima beans and be herself to cure it. Camilla hesitates at first but then agrees and her stripes never come back. This sums it up pretty well, “In order to ensure her popularity, Camilla Cream always does what is expected, until the day arrives when she no longer recognizes herself.” – LiteraturePlace.com

Just like my last review (Calvin Can’t Fly), A Bad Case of Stripes is about individuality, diversity, and being yourself. Camilla loves lima beans but is afraid for this fact to be known about her because she is worried what other people might think. This concept is extremely important for young readers who may be struggling with acceptance in their own lives. The story is cute, at times funny, and is easily relatable for even very young readers. While readers aren’t (I hope so at least…) going to color or shape-shift from not being themselves, I think this book highlights how you can feel like a different person, like you have no control in your life, or like you’re turning into someone or something else when you’re afraid to just be you.

The students in my library were exposed to Camilla through audio book. While I’m a fan of the audio book format, unfortunately I think it was lost on the very young students. Before reading this book we did a mini unit on bullying and cyber-bullying in which we read The Ugly Duckling, I think A Bad Case of Stripes is an excellent follow up to the unit. In my opinion, this book is a must read in all elementary schools.

Awards: Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children in 2007 National Education Association’s online poll
“The message is clear, yet not overpowering. It’s truly an enjoyable read with lots of great material for discussion.” – WordsByMom.com
“A highly original moral tale acquires mythic proportions when Camilla Cream worries too much about what others think of her and tries desperately to please everyone… Set in middle-class America, this very funny tale speaks to the challenge many kids face in choosing to act independently.” – School Library Journal, Carolyn Noah

Books to read in conjunction with this one:
Calvin Can’t Fly
The Ugly Duckling

*Watch online video of actor Sean Astin reading this story at http://www.storylineonline.net*

WordsByMom.com suggested the following post-reading discussion questions:
• Why do you think Camilla Cream came down with a bad case of stripes?
• How do you think Camilla felt when all the kids at school started calling her names?
• Do kids at your school call other kids names? What do you do when you hear this?
• Why do you suppose Camilla didn’t want to eat the lima beans?
• How do you think the lima beans cured Camilla?


Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Willems, Mo. 2004. Knuffle Bunny. New York, NY: Hyperion Books. ISBN 0786818700.

Knuffle Bunny is the story of Trixie, a young girl who is not yet vocal, and her favorite stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. Trixie accompanies her father to the laundromat where they accidentally leave behind the toy. It isn’t until several blocks away that Trixie realizes the mistake but is unable to articulate her concern to her father. Trixie is miserable and in turn makes her father miserable as they trek home. Upon arriving home, Trixie’s mother immediately notices Knuffle Bunny’s absence and the hunt is on to find the missing stuffed animal. When the family finds it, Trixie speaks her first words: Knuffle Bunny.

The story takes place in a present day, urban neighborhood. This is important because the family doesn’t have laundry facilities in their building and must walk several blocks to the laundromat. The story is relatable because the reader whether it is a parent of child has most likely had a favorite toy. Perhaps the reader thinks of their favorite toy growing up or the favorite toy of their child currently.

The story is cute and leaves an impression on the reader without having a preachy, overpowering theme. Knuffle Bunny is just a simple, cute story about about sentimental value and communication. The illustrations in this book are interesting and eye catching because it mixes illustrations of the people with actual images from real places. The setting images are black and white while the images of Trixie and her parents are in color. This adds some visual interest to the otherwise short and simple tale.

Knuffle Bunny is my all time favorite children’s book. When I started my career in education I worked as an assistant in an early childhood classroom. This book and nearly every other book by Mo Willems was loved by my students. Day after day during story time my students would request this book and it never got old. As soon as my husband and I found out we were expecting our son, I bought this book. When we discovered he had the ability to hear in the womb, I read this story to him over and over again. I hope it quickly becomes a favorite of his as well.

Awards: Caldecott Honor Book, BCCB Blue Ribbon Picture Book, and New York Times Bestseller

“The concise, deftly told narrative becomes the perfect springboard for the pictures. They, in turn, augment the story’s emotional acuity. Printed on olive-green backdrops, the illustrations are a combination of muted, sepia-toned photographs upon which bright cartoon drawings of people have been superimposed. Personalities are artfully created so that both parents and children will recognize themselves within these pages. A seamless and supremely satisfying presentation of art and text.” – School Library Journal

An unassuming little masterpiece…the book’s power lies in its rich, allusive artistry.” –New York Times Book Review

“Even children who can already talk a blue streak will come away satisfied that their own strong emotions have been mirrored and legitimized, and readers of all ages will recognize the agonizing frustration of a little girl who knows far more than she can articulate.” – Booklist

Other popular children’s books by Mo Willems:

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! ISBN 0786818697.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. ISBN 1423145143.

Website for Mo’s Pigeon character: http://www.pigeonpresents.com/