April 16, 2012
What Sadie Sang
By Eve Rice; illus. by author
No Author Site
1-4 Preschool Greenwillow 32 pp.
978-0688021795 Hardcover $9.50
What Sadie Sang is neither visually stunning nor conceptually flashy, which is why it endures so quietly as a lovely, if mostly forgotten, little book. The story is a simple one. Sadie and her mom go for their daily walk with Sadie's teddy bear and her stroller. ("Sadie could walk all by herself. But today, she did not want to walk"). As they go, the stroller wheels go "click, click, click" and Sadie sings "Gheee!" with the exuberance particular to the vocal, yet pre-verbal toddler. Neighbors and storekeepers voice concern that Sadie is crying or in distress because of the noises she's making, but Sadie's mom knows better - her mom knows that she's singing. Sadie sings her song down the street, past tulips and dogs to the harbor and back again as she and her mom take their walk. She even sings all the way up to bed for naptime. Sadie's song finally ends when she falls asleep.
The story is one of quiet, intimate routine, comforting in its everyday-ness. One gets the sense that Sadie and her mom have done this every day since Sadie was a baby, (walk then nap), a familiar routine for many children. Rice's prose is direct and specific, focusing on particular details in the neighborhood as Sadie might observe them (the "red, red fire hydrant" and the "scratching shaggy dog"). She also employs onomatopoeia judiciously with Sadie's "Ghee, ghee, ghee!" and various neighborhood noises. The illustrations are likewise understated and pleasing with their friendly, round-faced people and select color palette, (the pictures are all black and white ink with shades of orangey-red, gray, pink and brown filling the world in). The result is a safe, warm environment, alive with mundane action and friendly people, one that Sadie and her mom occupy like natives they are. What Sadie Sang may not be glamorous by today's standards, but it's oddly comforting - the picture book version of the teddy bear Sadie carries or the baby song she sings.