Monday, May 4, 2009

Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day

Most CCBR readers are familiar with Dandi Daley Mackall's rhyming picture books, but Mackall, while prolific in that genre, also writes chapter books. And Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day, a lightly illustrated chapter book, is one of the finest Mackall books I've ever read. It's the first book in the "That's Nat!" series.

Natalie is a five year old who wants to do something fabulous that no one else has ever done. Yet every time she tries, things go terribly wrong. First, she tries to make purple omelets...but instead, she makes the kitchen so filthy, it takes her mother most of the morning to clean up the mess. She tries to beautify the bathroom...but only ends up making a scribbly crayon mess on the wallpaper. She tries to make her daddy some one-of-a-kind shoes...but only succeeds in ruining his church shoes. She tries to save some ants...and ends up infesting her house with them.

"Only Natalie!" her mother says over and over again, exasperated. Instead of doing something wonderful and feeling wonderful, too, Natalie feels horrible. At the end of the day, after Natalie's been sent to bed, she prays: "'I'm sorry...I don't like being Only Natalie.' I tell God under the covers. I can feel God trying to take some of that sad out of my heart. And that works a little. But there is a whole lot of sad in there..." Then Natalie's parents walk in, so Nat pretends to be sleeping. Even so, her parents say bedtime prayers without her. Her father says: "Dear God...thank you for this wonderful day you've given us. And most of all, thank you for giving us our wonderful daughter, Natalie..." Her mother agrees: "Our Nat is one of a kind, heavenly Father. Who else could make our lives so full and wonderful...Only Natalie."

"And as I float into that sleepiness, my mind whispers thanks to God for making me, Natalie...the one-of-a-kind wonderful thing. Because it turns out I really do like being...Only Natalie."

What I Like: Every preschooler can relate to Natalie and all the trouble she gets into - with the best of intentions. Mackall does an excellent job getting into the head of a five year old. My three year old loves this book, and asks me to read it to her over and over again. I also appreciate the message: Even when everything seems to go wrong and you can't do anything right, you are a one-of-a-kind wonderful person that God has made.

What I Dislike: The first chapter or so, you may find yourself tripping over the text, which is entirely written as if Natalie were talking. The words might feel a little forced, and not very five-year-old like. But as you continue reading the book, I think you'll find (as I did) you get more used to the writing, and the text sounds more and more authentic.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: 4 to 8.

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2009; ISBN: 0310715660; paperback; $2.99

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Special Info: Read more of our reviews of Dandi Daley Mackall's books.

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