Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mattoo, Let's Play! (Irene Luxbacher)

Story Summary for Mattoo, Let’s Play!:  
Gregarious Ruby has a boisterous personality.  She wants Mattoo, her cat, to join in her incredible adventures around the house.  Ruby does not understand why Mattoo is so shy.   She is doing everything she can think of to entertain and to entice him like playing music with pots and pans, doing tricks while jumping on her bed, making him a jelly sandwich as a snack, and taking him for a ride in her cardboard box spaceship.  When her friend Clemente comes over play living room safari, he convinces Ruby to wait, watch, and whisper, so they don’t frighten the animals away.  Together, they imagine spotting amazing jungle animals, but none as fierce, wild, and mysterious as the king of the jungle (Mattoo).  Tuna snacks and a gentle pat of his fuzzy mane tame the “wild” cat.   Ruby realizes that she has a playful cat who likes to have a good time.

Most of the illustrations are simple—primarily focusing on Ruby and Mattoo’s interaction on a white background.   Some more elaborate pages are interspersed to depict her vivid imagination.  The well-written prose is engaging, including some fun onomatopoeia. 

What I value most is the skillful way the author Irene Luxbacher allows the reader to feel the protagonist’s frustrations, joys, and eventual revelation.  Ruby wants so much to please her pet and to play with him.  When she changes her approach, thanks to her friend Clemente, she realizes that Mattoo does want to play with and interact with her.  

Mattoo, Let’s Play! teaches a valuable lesson about friendship: Being a good friend means thinking about how the other person feels and what he is interested in.   Since children are often egocentric, this narrative opens up a dialogue about thinking of others and putting yourself in their shoes.  Lessons all children need to learn and practice. 

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