I was planning a different post for today, but this morning I realized it was February 29th, i.e. Leap Day, the day that only comes once every four years. Previously I only really enjoyed Leap Day as an excuse to indulge in the bad, old running joke “What if your birthday was on Leap Day? After 16 years, you’d only be 4 years old!” – a joke that has popped up in everything from Pirates of Penzance to Parks & Recreation. But, in recent years, there has been this movement to recast Leap Day as a day where you’re supposed to try new things. It’s the day that doesn’t count, the day that comes around so infrequently that it’s the PERFECT day to finally take big chances. (This new vision of Leap Day was hilariously lampooned in last week’s episode of 30 Rock.)
And I actually love that new definition of Leap Day. It makes February 29th more than just a calendar abnormality. It makes it into something aspirational and optimistic, which are two wonderful qualities for a holiday to have.
So, to celebrate Leap Day, I spent my drive into work trying to think of the perfect book to read my daughter tonight to celebrate the Leap Day spirit and then it hit me – David Wiesner’s Tuesday.
Let me get this out of the way – Tuesday by David Wiesner might be the coolest picture book I’ve ever read. If I was making a list of the ten essential books that ANY home library MUST have (ooh, I might actually do that soon), Tuesday would definitely make the list.
David Wiesner is one of the most talented children’s book illustrators that has ever lived, a fact backed up by his unprecedented three Caldecott Medals and two Caldecott Honor citations. He’s the master of the wordless or near-wordless picture book, where he uses his vivid watercolor paintings to tell beautiful stories, capture subtle emotions, and entertain the heck out of parents and children alike. Our family has a short-list of “must-own” authors – children’s book creators whose work we will buy sight-unseen every single time – and Wiesner is definitely on that list.
I’ll do a longer tribute to Wiesner’s oeuvre another day, but, for right now, let me address the question – Why is Tuesday the PERFECT Leap Day book?
First, it’s all about frogs and reading about frogs on Leap Day is too good of a pun to pass up. (Don’t groan. Even the Google Doodle for Leap Day incorporates frogs.) Second, the premise of Tuesday really taps into the Leap Day spirit. The book opens with the text “Tuesday evening, around eight” and we then pull in on a turtle in a pond witnessing an awesome sight.
For some unknown reason, EVERY frog in the pond has started to FLOAT up, up, up into the air. Actually, they’re not just floating. They’re full-on flying. They’re soaring through the trees, they’re chasing birds, and, from the expressions on their faces, you can tell that the frogs are LOVING IT. They’re having a blast. They’re doing tricks, they’re sneaking into houses to watch TV, they’re playfully chasing a dog that was previously chasing them – a whole new realm of experience has been opened up to them.
Wiesner‘s paintings of the flying sequences are so evocative and beautiful that you’ll want to frame every one and hang them in your kid’s room. And, most importantly, his paintings really sell the unfettered sense of FUN that the frogs are having. My daughter hoots, points, and laughs her head off every time we read Tuesday because she’s so amused by the look of such sheer mischievous joy on the faces of the frogs. And, as suddenly as it began, once the sun rises, the frogs fly from the sky, land safely on the ground, and hop back to their pond. There’s no explanation WHY they started flying – and the frogs look fairly annoyed that their adventure is over – but they all got to spend one glorious night, sailing through the air and experiencing something that frogs never normally get to do.
And that seems like a great Leap Day message to me. The frogs spent one great day – well, one great evening – trying something out that they’d never tried before and they loved it. And, even though the experience ended, there’s a wonderful little tag at the end of the book where another animal group gets the gift of flight that, I think, alludes to the fact that opportunities to transcend your everyday life come around at random all the time and you just have to be open to the experience and try to embrace it.
I didn’t mean to make Tuesday sound so self-helpy, but it’s just one of the best picture books you can read with a kid and I think it ties into what we’re now calling the “Leap Day spirit” more than any other book I can think of. I apologize for posting this so late – ideally, I would’ve liked to have recommended a book for the 29th on, perhaps, the 28th (at least) to give you some time to locate a copy, but, regardless of the day, Tuesday is a tremendous book that any home library should have. And, hey, if you buy a copy now, in four years, you’ll have the PERFECT book to read to your kid on February 29, 2016.
THE DETAILS ON TUESDAY
AGE RANGE: The stated age range is five and up, but I disagree with that. I’d say two and up. The best thing about wordless picture books is that, most of the time, the reader completely controls the experience, so you can make it as age-appropriate as you want through your retelling of the story. Also, in my experience, two-year-olds (and older kids) all crack up when presented with a frog making a funny face.
PAGE COUNT: 32 pages
RELATED WEB SITES: Houghton Mifflin has a FANTASTIC website for Tuesday, where you can get information on the book, commentary from Wiesner, and they even have a slideshow section where Wiesner discusses the creative process behind the creation of Tuesday. You can find Wiesner’s official website here.
BUY IT, BORROW IT, OR FORGET IT?: Buy it. Now. ‘Nuff said.
IF YOU LIKED TUESDAY, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
- Waking Upside Down by Philip Heckman – A very funny picture book, which, like Tuesday, is all about characters being thrown into an experience that abruptly changes their perspective in the world. After the disgruntled Morton is forced to share a bedroom with his kid sister, he wakes up to discover that he’s no longer bound by the rules of gravity – he awakens on the ceiling – and spends the night exploring his house, enjoying seeing his mundane world from a new perspective.