T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes
T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes
If you’re still a bit small,
it is no fun at all
when you can’t reach a shelf
or get dressed by yourself.
But you’re not alone!
My dear friend, it is true:
Some things are hard – for animals too!
A hopscotching horse or kung fu kangaroo?
There are lots of things animals just cannot do . . .
In the opening page of T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes, a little girl balances precariously on a footstool, reaching for a teddy bear perched on a shelf, just out of reach. In the same frame, a little guy is struggling to put on a shirt, and he’s losing the battle. For most of us, the frustrations of childhood are long forgotten (unless we have little folks in our lives). This book reminds kids (and those who take care of them) that they shouldn’t be discouraged because there are plenty of things that various animals cannot do, either. The delightful rhymes, quoted above, introduce an alphabet book, each page presenting a letter, an animal, and a task that the animal simply can’t accomplish. An entire menagerie, from A to Z, offers plenty of examples of animals attempting a challenge for which they are plainly unsuited. There’s a drooling dog that can’t wash dishes, a narwhal sporting a tusk encrusted with nachos that never get to its mouth, and, of course, a T. Rex which can’t tie its shoes. Those tiny forearms are just too far from its feet. He may have been the terror of the prehistoric world, but the expression on his face makes it clear T. Rex is flummoxed by his failure with his footwear. Alliteration or else repetition of a word beginning with the same letter as the featured animal reinforces the letter of the alphabet presented on each page.
Steph Laberis’ illustrations are vibrant and funny, making each animal a real-life character, presented with an impossible task. Sure, there’s a bit of silliness in suggesting that an iguana might even want to try eating ice cream, and what’s a quetzal doing in a library where it can’t possibly keep quiet? Still, who says that learning about animals and new words can’t be fun? The book is unpaginated, but, at 40 pages, that’s a non-issue. When I first heard Anna Lazowski being interviewed about the book on CBC Radio, I thought back to my own childhood struggle with learning to tie my shoes. Way back in the 20th century, kids entering kindergarten (alliteration, again) were expected to know how to tie their sneakers. This was back in the pre-Velcro age (but long after T. Rexes roamed the earth), and a kindergarten teacher of the post-war baby-boom era would not have time to deal with at least 30 little pairs of runners. So many simple daily activities are enormously difficult for little folks, but this book is a gently supportive reminder that no one can do everything.
In the final pages of the book, all the animals enjoy a good time hanging out together: a monkey is helping T. Rex with his shoes while simultaneously juggling cards, a zebra is joyfully ziplining, the narwhal is sharing his nachos with an iguana, and an owl has finally mastered the art of origami. Smiles all around, followed by two more pages, presenting a list of all the amazing things that animals can do. Adults will be surprised to learn that elephants can make their own sunscreen, jaguars (unlike most cats) like water and can swim, zebra stripes are as unique as human fingerprints, and, although they can’t tie their shoes, T. rex had the longest teeth of any dinosaur and the strongest bite. Every animal has a special ability, a reminder to kids that, sooner or later, they will find that they can do more than they ever thought possible.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and at least four preschoolers of my acquaintance will be receiving it as a holiday gift. An excellent read-aloud choice, I will also be recommending T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes to all my friends with young grandchildren, and I definitely recommend it to early childhood educators, teachers of preschool and kindergarten classes, and as an acquisition (buy more than one copy, please) for elementary school libraries.
Joanne Peters, a retired teacher-librarian (who purchases runners with laces. No Velcro.), lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Treaty 1 Territory and Homeland of the Métis People.