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Book Review: Maggie Can’t Wait by Frieda Wishinsky, Illustrated by Dean Griffiths

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Maggie Can’t Wait – tomorrow is the big day her family has been waiting for. They will finally be able to pick up her new baby sister from the adoption agency. Wanting to share her joy with her fellow classmates Maggie – an young orange tabby – brings a photo of her new sibling to class.

When Kimberly – the class verbal bully – mocks the appearance of her new sibling, and even Maggie’s best friend Sam can’t find something nice to say, Maggie is thrown into a tailspin of confusion and ambivalence concerning the newest member of her family.

Continuing to build upon Maggie’s story that began in Give Maggie a Chance, author Frieda Wishinsky has penned a tale that will delight Maggie’s existing fans, as well as those new to the challenges she faces as she grows. Very accessible as a stand-alone read, I wouldn’t have guessed that it was a picture book sequel. My children have never noticed either; this title has become a fast favorite of theirs.

Dean Griffiths’ charming, old-timey illustrations entranced my little ones through the use of colorful vintage apparel and delicate, feathery texture. The gentle, muted, watercolor palette is given the soft, rich texture through the careful use of pastels. Griffiths’ work is somewhat reminiscent of Janet Stevens early work in her anthropomorphic versions of classic children’s stories such as The Princess and the Pea. While Griffiths’ characters are indeed more slender they hold the same degree of fascination for my little ones that I beheld Stevens’ work with as a child.

As I read through Wishinsky’s story I found myself deeply moved emotionally. Though the text is simple, and age-appropriate, I found myself relating with Maggie and her peer-induced confusion and distress. Maggie is certainly a character who children will easily relate to – whether they have experienced mixed feelings revolving around the arrival of a new sibling, or been the victim of verbal put-downs.

Readers watch Maggie reveling in the heights of elation as she looks towards her new sisters arrival and the rapturous attention with which she imagines this new darling will be greeted with, ““She’s wonderful!” everyone would coo when Maggie wheeled her sister down the street.” Followed by her descent into a degree of doubt-filled anguish that only the young seem to possess, “She’d rather eat a barrel of worms than see that new baby’s big ears tomorrow.”

Wishinksy’s subtle message that the taunting of verbal bully’s is irrelevant, and that the arrival of new siblings always works out in the end, is one that will reassure and delight young readers for years to come. Thankfully the arrival of the sweet little calico eventually wins Maggie and Sam over. Her bright smile transformed a countenance that was in truth, not so terrible after all, into something absolutely adorable. “What a cute baby kitty!” my daughters cried – they too have been won over by Maggie’s new little sister.

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About Jennifer Bogart