Friday, January 25, 2013

Easy Reader Radar: Messy Bessey by Patricia and Frederick McKissack

Messy Bessey. by Patricia and Frederick McKissack. 1987. Children's Press. 31 pages. ISBN: 9780516270036

One of the most popular easy readers at my library is a Rookie Reader by Patricia and Frederick McKissack called Messy Bessey. It is a rhyming story about the mess in a young girl’s bedroom, which she cleans up in order to make her room reflect her clean and beautiful self.

I think the subject matter in this book is appealing to both kids and adults, which might be one of the reasons this book is so frequently checked out from my branch library. Kids like to see just how messy one little girl can be, and parents like books that encourage good behavior and self-reliance. The illustrations are also endearing. Bessey is a cute little girl and her look of combined shame and surprise as she takes in each of her messes is subtle, but effective.

What puzzles me about the book, though, is the rhythm of the text. It starts out with a strong sense of rhyme and meter: “See colors on the wall, books on the chair, toys in the dresser drawer, and games everywhere.” A few pages later, though, it starts to unravel. There is a glaring omission of a comma on page 12 (“Bessey look at your room” instead of “Bessey, look at your room”), and the authors attempt to pass off “window” and “pillow” as rhyming words. The second half of the book is difficult to stumble through because the rhythm doesn’t match the pattern established in the first few pages. I also wonder why the book uses an alternative spelling of Bessey, when that extra E might throw off an uncertain or inexperienced reader.

Messy Bessey is a gentle story that preschoolers and emergent readers tend to love. Adults looking to branch out might try other tales of mess-making such as Karen Beaumont’s I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, which has a great sense of rhyme and rhythm, and Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley. Though both are picture books, they have simple enough text for new readers to tackle, and the text in both stories is more precise and easier to read aloud.

I borrowed Messy Bessey from my local public library. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

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