Kevintipple's Reviews > Cecil Learns to Smile

Cecil Learns to Smile by Charlotte Bucher
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May 30, 11


Written by Charlotte Bucher this "beginner reader" is about Cecil who is a small tree frog living in Costa Rica. Cecil is a bit smaller than normal so he gets teased by the other tadpoles and later by other frogs. Time passes and "Cecil grew into a chartreuse green tree frog with red eyes and red feet." (Page 5)

His mother frog puts him on a branch of a tree in the forest so that he is left alone to avoid being teased and leaves him there while she and the rest of the family move to other trees. He is very lonesome. Before long, he is discovered by a TV cameraman who takes his picture while teaching him why smiling is important. He takes his picture and before long his photo is used in a commercial. Being in the commercial makes Cecil very important and famous.

The other frogs find out that Cecil is now famous and his family decides they should go visit. As Cecil's Uncle Bert notes "maybe we need to apologize for teasing him." (Page 11) Word spreads and by the end of the illustrated book, Cecil is surrounded by frogs from everywhere come and Cecil is not lonely anymore.

Using very colorful watercolor illustrations, this book is a visual treat for beginning readers. The frogs have their own distinct personalities that are expressed through the various illustrations. The illustrations showcase variety and are a definite plus with the book.

Marketed as a beginning reader, this book is not one at all. Using words such as "chartreuse," long statements of text, lack of repetitive phrases of text, etc., all make it very clear this book is not appropriate for the beginning or struggling reader without heavy parental or other adult assistance.

While the overall idea that smiling helps you make friends is a good one, some parents may have qualms about how that is under scored in the book. Cecil becomes famous, not for doing anything meaningful, but for having a certain look much like a Paris Hilton or a Kim Kardashian. It ties in perfectly and illustrates the faux celebrity that is so prevalent in the world today.

It is only when Cecil becomes famous that other frogs decide they might need to apologize for previous teasing. That implies that if Cecil had never become famous for his celebrity look, they never would have felt the need to apologize at some point. Nobody has really learned anything by the close of the book except for Cecil who has learned that smiling is important. Whether he learned the more glaring implication that having a certain look will make you famous is open to reader interpretation.

Taken as written and without considering the larger societal issues implied by the text, the book tells a pleasant tale and is charmingly illustrated. Depending on the perception level of the child, this book will raise issues that will need to be discussed with the child.




Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011
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