Format: Board book
Author and illustrator: Leslie Patricelli
Publisher: Candlewick (September 2010)
A good variety of books to keep a toddler sitting on the toilet or potty is one important key in the process of toilet training. Even better if you can find a bunch that will remind your child what the hell they’re supposed to be doing. And if they’re entertaining for you, all the better — ‘cuz you’re probably gonna be spending a lot of time in that bathroom. This upbeat, silly board book, told from the perspective of a toddler of ambiguous gender who isn’t sure what to do when it’s time to go, is a simple and exuberant introduction to the potty. Children will delight in watching their parents make the protagonist’s sounds of discomfort as s/he debates what to do — “OOH! MMMM! HAAA! EEEE!” — and will cheer as the victor accomplishes the task at hand. The final page displays an array of underwear in cheerful designs, and my two-year-old loves to look at each one and decide what pair would suit each character in the book. A great pick for anyone engaged in the thankless task that is potty training.
Format: Picture book
Author: Hope Vestergaard
Illustrator: Valeria Petrone
Publisher: Sterling (published March 2010)
There’s a lot to learn for a young child attempting to master the toilet. Getting up there is a hard enough job, never mind remembering how to pull down all the clothes that need to be pulled down, whether the door is supposed to be open or closed, and that we must use soap to wash our hands. Potty Animals uses an engaging cast of characters — an eclectically named group of animals attending preschool together — to teach some of the finer points of toilet usage: knock before entering the bathroom, use the toilet before you go to sleep, and don’t forget to flush.
While the premise of the book is solid, and whimsical creatures like Helga the duck and Benji the lemur play their parts perfectly, the book comes off as preachy rather than reassuring to new toilet users. When a young rabbit is plagued by a common fear (“Freddie is afraid to flush. / He doesn’t like the sound. / He worries that he’ll get sucked in, and tossed and sloshed around”), the book simply exhorts “Don’t forget to flush, Freddie!” without any comfort or explanation. Similarly, Wilbur the hedgehog is told, “Wilbur, always wash with soap!” when he doesn’t want to, but no reason is given. The story might serve as a reminder for children who already know the rules, but doesn’t give much help to toddlers fresh out of diapers who don’t yet know the whys and wherefores of bathroom use.