I spend a lot of time reading to my daughter. It’s a great way to pass the time. But it can admittedly be a bit frustrating reading the same book over and over again. Thanks to this endless repetition, I have learned to rank her books on three criteria:
- Is it fun to read?
- Is the artwork interesting to look at?
- Is it a bit beyond my child’s so-called reading level?
If a book scores highly in all three, I’m much more likely to indulge Audrey’s book reading whims. So with that in mind, let’s unwrap Lucy Cousins’ “Merry Christmas, Maisy” and see what we find.
Is it Fun to Read?
First things first: I imagine you’re wondering why I’m reviewing a Christmas book in March. Certainly a good question, and one that plays into this category. You see, Audrey isn’t to the point where holidays have a beginning and an end point. And she really liked Christmas last year. I mean, she is still asking that we play “Jingle Bells” on the stereo. Sometimes “Jingle Bell Rock” to jazz things up a bit. “Merry Christmas, Maisy” falls under this umbrella too. To her, it’s okay to still be celebrating Christmas. For me, however, this doesn’t make reading the book terribly enjoyable for me. I’m not exactly in the Christmas Spirit right now.
But that’s not the main reason why I don’t find this book particularly fun to read.
The general idea behind the book is that it is participatory. On every page there are little flaps to open up and look behind, tabs to slide back and forth, and surprises galore. Audrey loves this, as you’d suspect. And that’s great. Really! The problem, however, is that there is very little for me to read on each page. Just a short sentence and that’s about it. And as far as a plot is concerned, it’s bare bones at best. It’s essentially the story of a mouse that’s getting ready to have some friends come over for Christmas. That’s it. As a result, when I read the book with her, I basically:
- Read one short sentence,
- Wait a few minutes for Audrey to open all the flaps for the 500th time and then…
- Repeat. Over and over again.
It’s just not stimulating at all for me to read. It was fun the first few times when we were both discovering all the little secrets to be had, but now that we’ve been through it a million times, it’s just become a slog to get through. That said, Audrey still LOVES it. She finds it endlessly fun to read and explore.
So is it fun to read? For her? Absolutely. For me? Not so much.
Is the Artwork Interesting to Look At?
Here we go again—I’m a bit on the fence about this one too. Overall, I don’t find the artwork terribly pleasing to the eye, detracting from the experience of reading it to Audrey. I find it too simplistic and crude. I’ve seen much more visually appealing art styles in most of her other books.
But I have a feeling that she would disagree with me.
The simplistic style really helps to make the shapes pop. Audrey is able to easily identify everything on the page, from tennis racquets to toy tractors. It’s also very colorful. There’s no real texture to the colors, but they are bright and bold. I believe this also helps the images to pop right off the page.
I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t bring up the flaps again because they really help to add another layer of interest to the art. Cousins does a good job of sneaking in a little birdy that says “Tweet” on each page, as well as little jokes, such as the message on the below bird’s underwear:
So, like the first category, the artwork is also something of a mixed bag. Your kids will love it. But you may be wishing for something a bit more stimulating.
Is It a Bit Beyond My Child’s So-Called Reading Level?
I like to challenge my daughter through books a bit. And she’s usually up for it, happily sitting through tomes that are meant for those much older than her age of two. As you might guess, “Merry Christmas, Maisy” isn’t much of a challenge. With only one to two sentences per page, and each being fairly simple and straightforward—“Maisy goes shopping and buys presents for her friends.” and “Maisy wraps the presents.” are two examples—there’s not much here to push her forward into a higher reading level.
But…that’s okay. Clearly “Merry Christmas, Maisy” was designed to be a simple, fun read for kids. It’s not made for adults. It’s not made for me. It’s made for young children, like my daughter. From the simple look to the basic language, it’s not meant to challenge. It’s meant to entertain, and the flaps and surprises really put it over the edge.
I admit I’d be a bit more favorable in my review if it was Christmas time, but it doesn’t change the fact that Lucy Cousins’ book “Merry Christmas, Maisy” is unapologetically a book for kids and kids alone. I may grouse a bit about being tired of reading the same few sentences over and over again, but Audrey sure doesn’t feel the same way. She loves it.
And that, ultimately, is all that matters, isn’t it?
So if you’re looking for a book your child will love, and your patience is at a higher level than mine, Lucy Cousins’ Maisy books—yes, there are non-Christmas ones too—are a perfectly fine choice. Merry Christmas!