April 01, 2020

I Got You a Present!

Written by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan
Illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2020

I Got You a Present! is the perfect book to review for April Fool's Day as it is a bit of a joke. It's reminiscent of those irreverent birthday cards in which the giver plans to give the best of gifts but it ends up only being the card. Fortunately, for the recipient of Duck's intentions, the present is more personal than any gag card or gift could be. 

Throughout the book, Duck explains all the great gifts he planned for the birthday celebrant. He has the best ideas. First he is determined to knit some socks. Unfortunately, that doesn't work out.
Have you ever tried knitting birthday socks? It's really hard.
From I Got You a Present! by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan, illus. by Cale Atkinson
Then he chooses a ten-scoop ice-cream cone with the delicious flavours of Hooty Fruity, Huckleberry Honeycomb and Blueberry Brain Freeze. Of course, something goes awry there too.
From I Got You a Present! by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan, illus. by Cale Atkinson
There's a birthday music jam, the disappearing magic kit, an apple-juice-fueled jet pack, and more. And each time, there's an "except" or a "but" that tells the reader that that birthday gift also didn't happen.
From I Got You a Present! by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan, illus. by Cale Atkinson
Poor Duck! He was so intent on getting something special for his birthday friend. Fortunately, he realizes that all these anecdotes make for a fabulous story and a very personalized book that would make it the ultimate birthday present.

I Got You a Present! may be partners and collaborative duo Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan's debut picture book but they are well-versed in the field of children's entertainment, having written for a variety of television shows. They make sure that each flop of Duck's gift attempts is snappy, funny and relatable. From a craft project that Duck can't quite complete, to misplacing something, or dropping a ice-cream, all situations are those to which children can relate and certainly appreciate.  Even Duck's earnestness at getting a great birthday gift for his friend is palpable. 

Cale Atkinson, whose digital art was apparently "rendered in cake icing, gorilla vanilla ice cream and Photoshop," communicates Duck's fervent attempts in his bold and enthusiastic illustrations (except where Duck is saddened to think he may have failed to get a present), blending them with the brightest of colours, the most voluminous of shape and the most spirited of line. 

If you have a child's birthday coming up, do pick up I Got You a Present! It's both birthday card message and gift with a surprise but thoughtful resolution.
...it's a story about you and me. So anytime you want, you can read it again and remember what great friends we are!

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