“I’m Not Cute!” by Jonathan Allen (2005)
I don’t know when this author visited my home and decided to base an owl character off of BoyChild, but this could be a thinly veiled “fictional” account of life in our house right now! (“I not cute! I GRUMPY!” is the usual refrain. Sometimes he substitutes his name or “a goose [school] bus” (who knows?) for “GRUMPY”…) Sure, he says (er, the copyright page says) that it was published in 2005, and BoyChild is only two and a half…so maybe there are other boychildren (and girlchildren!) out there that go through this stage, too!
Baby Owl decides to go out into the forest and is sure no one will bother him there. But Rabbit, Fox, and even Squirrel proclaim him cute and cuddly and give him big hugs. He is completely offended, throwing tiny, angry fits, proclaiming, “I’m NOT cute!” and declaring himself a fierce hunting machine. No one listens until his mother finds him and confirms that he isn’t cute but rather a terrifying hunting machine like he says. Baby Owl pauses, looks horrified, then throws another fit declaring that he actually IS cute! Mama Owl, being rather wise, realizes that Baby Owl is tired and needs to go to sleep, and once he starts dozing off, she says, “You’re so cute, Baby Owl. For a huge, scary, sleek, sharp-eyed hunting machine, that is.” And Baby Owl goes to sleep with a peaceful smile on his face.
Unsurprisingly, Baby Owl is incredibly cute. Even when he’s throwing his hissy fit on the ground, the brushstrokes that depict his baby owl down make him look downright fluffy to the touch, and you can’t fault Rabbit, Fox, and Squirrel for wanting to give him a squeeze. His expressions are hilarious, and the backgrounds are pretty minimal so that young readers can focus on the characters and their body language to help interpret the story.
GirlChild’s and BoyChild’s Reactions: BoyChild, for some completely unknown reason, identified strongly with Baby Owl and asked for this book at least three times today, but he also seemed clued in to the irony of Baby Owl’s reactions (as his completely adorable sideways glances and sneaky grins when he shouted out, “I NOT CUTE!” along with Baby Owl suggest). I’ve been trying to work with GirlChild on some reading comprehension strategies, and making connections was an easy one here. I said, “Who does Baby Owl remind you of?” and her brief hesitation, secretive grin, and behind-the-back pointing at BoyChild made it clear that this was not a subtle connection. I look forward to finding all the books in this series, and I’m so glad I stumbled across it at the library today!