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*Why?* by Lila Prap

by Lila Prap
ages 4-6 32 pages Kane/Miller September 2005 Hardcover    

Every parent, at some point during the toddler-to-preschool transition, learns to dread that one-word question to which no answer seems to appease their curious child: Why? Granted, it is an important, necessary developmental tool for children wanting learn as much as they can about their world, and about, well, why things are as they are.

Still, hearing that question 500 times a day can drive any rational adult to the brink of surrender - sometimes we just can't think of a single 'nother reasonable answer (my own father would resort at the last to an impatient "Because the sky is blue!", the indication that I'd be better off leaving him alone for a while). That's where Slovenian author/illustrator Lila Prap comes to the rescue.

Why? takes a child's inquiring mind on a silly but educational tour of the animal world. Why do hyenas laugh, for instance? Because it tickles them to walk barefoot on the grass. Hey, wait a minute! It's really just a human-sounding giggling call they make when they're excited or being attacked - and by the way, didja know they also like to eat other animals' leftovers, like bones, hooves and fur?

That is Prap's approach to each animal's unique "Why?" question - a few silly answers give parent and child the chance to laugh together before the real because answer; and she throws in extra fun factoids. A hippo can eat up to 100 pounds of grass in a single night! Rhinos can't sweat! An elephant's trunk is nimble enough to pick up a single piece of straw!

The mostly grinning animals (the crocodile is crying) are thickly outlined in black. Prap's chunky, texturized style will have parents scrambling to find prints by the artist with which to redecorate playroom walls - illustrations from Why? were featured in "A Trip Around the World" exhibition organized by The Art Institute of Chicago - and thoroughly engage preschool kids. And, perhaps most importantly, Why? gives a mom or dad's overtaxed brain a much-needed breather.

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  Sharon Schulz-Elsing/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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