'I Don't' book series is fun for kids and adults

October 03, 2003|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

There are several things that make a picture book worthwhile.

Does it have engaging text?

Are the illustrations appropriate?

Is the storyline somewhat predictable?

Does good win out over evil?

When a book has all these elements, it's sure to be a winner with young children.

Such was the case when I read "I Don't Like Mosquitoes!" to my children.

The book, written by Michael Ambrosio and illustrated by Bob Langan, is part of the duo's "I Don't" series of picture books for children ages 4 to 8.


The story is about a golden retriever puppy, Poochiegrass, who makes a mosquito mad. Throughout the book, the mosquito seeks revenge.

To a child, a golden retriever is about as good as good gets - and a mosquito is about as evil as evil gets.

The story is one Ambrosio verbally created at the bedside of his own children. He became frustrated with picture books that wouldn't hold his or his children's interest and decided to try his hand at storytelling.

When his children - he has five, ages 1 1/2 to 16 - ask him to tell a story again, he knows it's good one.

The family has a grown-up golden retriever, but Ambrosio remembers the puppy stage, and he translates that well through Poochiegrass' antics.

Initially oblivious to the danger around him, Poochiegrass frolics and plays with abandon. Then he goes on the defensive to defeat his enemy.

The book is a lot of fun to read aloud. How often do we adults get to say "Squish! Squish! Squishity! Squish! Splat!" or "Whack! Whack! Whackity! Whack! Thud! ... Thwack!"

Each time the mad mosquito plans to attack, he brings an army of friends along. And each time something happens to all the mosquitoes, "except for one" - the one who initially sought the revenge.

The magic comes from repetition. By the time a child gets to the third mosquito-attack scenario, he's ready for the adult to pause at the ellipsis so he can say those three words.

My 4-year-old was afraid that something was going to happen to the puppy. I felt her muscles tense beside me each time the mosquitoes went in for an attack. Boy, was she relieved at the book's ending. (Don't want to spoil it for you, but it is very kid-friendly.)

The book also appealed to my 8-year-old, who noticed a squirrel hiding in some of the illustrations. The squirrel was a character in a previous "I Don't" book, Ambrosio explained.

"One of the hardest things to do when you're writing for kids is to get at their level," Ambrosio said. "What I like to achieve through the books is that they are left with a sense of 'I have somebody watching out for me.' Poochiegrass keeps getting bailed out in most unusual ways.

"Just like the little, cute puppy, sometimes things come after you that you don't deserve, but someone's looking out for you, and you'll be OK in the end."

The illustrations are vivid with primary colors. There are no pastels in this book, which is fitting. A puppy's world is bright and lively.

"Even my 1 1/2-year-old is drawn to the colors," Ambrosio said. "Most picture books are pastel-y, very much more like a Monet art style."

Langan's animation allows the reader to focus on one or two things from interesting angles.

The book will be available this month at

Other books in the "I Don't" series are "I Don't Want to Be Lunch!" and "I Don't Want to Take a Nap!"

For more information, go to on the Web.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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