Monday, September 6, 2010


By Adam Rex

(Harcourt, Inc., 2007)

Boys like noise. It's a generalization, but when I hear loud tractor noises, block banging and Hot Wheels traffic jams coming from the kindergarten, it's more often Billy than Sally who is conducting the orchestral din. Walk by a construction site and survey who has stopped to watch the cranes and jackhammers disturbing the peaceful horn-honking urban landscape. Guys, I'll bet. (I wonder if anyone has studied horn honking. Wouldn't be surprised if there is a clear gender gap.)

So think of the word psst. This nifty interjection is supposed to subtly get someone's attention. Try to whisper it. The sound is greater than one might think. (Of course, that's how it gets attention.) It's a funny word—all noise, no vowels. Plop it repeatedly into a picture book and even the most distracted listener will keep coming back to the text and pictures. Genius, really.

Adam Rex has more than the frequent use of a noisy word in his favour in Pssst! (He adds an extra s, presumably inviting the reader to use more expression.) This engaging tale is about a youngster's trip to the zoo, during which animal after animal gets her attention. (The child is androgynously drawn and unnamed. There is a plain hair clip and a pinkish backpack, but the sporty attire and short hair may help both boys and girls readily identify with the main character.)

Pssst! "Could you get me a tire?" asks the gorilla. Gorillas like to swing, you know. The bats want flashlights. The odd requests continue. The book takes a surprising, delightful turn once the animals receive their desired items.

Boys and girls will be hooked on this book. Once they know how it ends, they'll want to hear or read the story again and again, switching from the mind of the zoo visitor to the thinking of each of the animals. It's a worthy addition to a children's book collection. Stop by your local bookstore and find it. Get the staff person to help you find (or order) it. You know how to get his/her attention. It's a fun word. Use it.

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