Uli's new favorite nap- and night-time read is currently
(1) In the beginning I couldn't read Anna in Charge without first impulsively singing the chorus to Charles in Charge (with Anna substituted for Charles). Now Uli has come to demand the song as an essential beginning to the book's text. So I've been singing
(2) I can't decide whether the book's story is pro-Free-Range Kids (which I am) or the perfect worry-wort's example of what happens if you are "foolish" enough to allow your kiddos some freedom.
Little Anna (from the illustrations she appears about 5-6 years old) is left playing alone in front of her house while her mother runs to the bank. Her younger sister (whom I'd guess to be about 3 years old) is inside napping. Katy wakes up and Anna calms her crying by helping her get her shoes on and brings her outside with her. They start to play a game together but Anna focuses on the game and Katy runs off. Anna searches the neighborhood for Katy, eventually finding her at the park, safe and sound.
In a way, the story shows exactly what a 5 year old can be capable of: problem solving (Where would Katy go? The park! How do you get there? I remember the way!) as well as understanding the seriousness of the situation (when she hears screeching tires on the main street, she worries that Katy may have been hit by a car and run to investigate, her heart thumping with fear). In fact, it also shows that a 3 year old can be capable too (I want to go to the park. I remember how to get there!). And it isn't alarmist, rather, it manages to tell the story without implying there's a potential kidnapper/murderer on every street corner.
In another way, it gives a relatively good example of why a 5 year old isn't an ideal babysitter: Anna became so involved in drawing the train tracks for Katy to play on that she forgot to watch her little sister. (Truthfully, however, surely the 5 years olds of this world aren't the only ones to have their thoughts on something of interest while the little one in their care gets up to something. I can think of several times when I've been on the computer and suddenly there's toilet paper strung around the living room or I hear a shriek because the cat finally fought back...)
Whatever I think (or sing), Uli loves this book. Perhaps it's the toddler version of The Boxcar Children (they can make it on their own!). And I love to hear her "read" the book's title (A-N-N-A 1[one]-N C-H-A-R-G-E) and pronounce the author's and illustrator's names (which she always does, though her pronounciation is only as good as my example. Man, now is the time for her to be learning a second languge. Mind like a steel trap! )