Picture Book Review: I Got You a Present! by Mike Erskine-Kellie, Susan McLennan and Cale Atkinson

A quest for the perfect birthday present leads to ever grander (and ever more imperfect) gift ideas in this clever metafiction story that’s hilarious any day of the year.

“I wanted to get you the greatest present ever,” our narrator tells us. But somehow, none of the best ideas seemed to pan out. First, there was the pair of hand-knitted birthday socks (have you ever tried knitting birthday socks?). Then, the ten-scoop ice cream cone (a disaster to carry), the magic kit (it disappeared, just like magic!), the apple juice-fueled jet pack (still a few kinks to work out) and the dinosaur (I couldn’t find one anywhere). And now, time has run out, and our narrator still has nothing to give. Or, maybe there is something after all. Something that contains all those awesome gifts in one. Something that can be enjoyed again and again, just by turning the pages.

Emmy-winning writers and producers Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan team up for their picture book debut with prolific illustrator Cale Atkinson (Unicorns 101, Off & Away, Sir Simon: Super Scarer ) for the endearing and buoyant I Got You a Present!.

An adorable birthday-hat wearing duck- our narrator throughout the story- excitedly tells us readers that “birthdays are the best”. There is just so much to enjoy about birthdays, isn’t there? There are treats and parties and of course: PRESENTS! Who doesn’t love a thoughtful gift from a friend for their birthday? Well, as duck divulges to us, it can sometimes be an out-of-this-world, almost-impossible journey to find and prepare an “amazing” and “unexpected” present! What begins with an attempt-gone-awry to knit socks (see duck reading Knitting for Ducks), leads to a “ten-scoop ice-cream cone” carrying disaster, which leads to a “musical mess” after a venture to write an awesome birthday jam goes south, which then leads to a mysteriously vanishing magic box, which then leads to…oh dear. Poor, poor duck! Idea after idea, attempt after attempt, and the perfect present is still elusive! Will our thoughtful friend duck ever end up with a perfect present after all? With Atkinson’s warm and wonderfully bright digital illustrations (with amazing details to pore over!), and a truly effervescent, expressive narrator leading the way, Erskine-Kellie and McLennan’s skilled storytelling allows for I Got You a Present! to work wonderfully as a gentle lesson on optimism and perseverance and as a funny, unexpected, and giggly picture book.

Overall, I Got You a Present! is a sweetly offbeat and happily upbeat, engaging picture book. One that would make for terrific read aloud fun for a preschool-and-up storytime! Readers who enjoy bustling picture books along the lines of Interrupting Chicken, It Came in the Mail, A Perfectly Messed Up Story, Mélanie Watt’s Chester, or the Bear & Duck series by Jory John and Benji Davies might be especially tickled by I Got You a Present!.

About Mike and Susan!

Regional Emmy Award-winning Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan are writers and producers who have written television shows for PBS, Disney XD, BBC, TVO, and CBC including Pucca, Ranger Rob, 1001 Nights, Turbo Dogs, Endangered Species, Zoboomafoo, Opie’s Home, and Franny’s Feet.

They co-created and developed the 2015 regional Emmy award winning, Scientastic for American Public Television. They also co-created, story edited and wrote TVO’s Spellz, winner of the US International Film and Video Festival in Children’s Programming and a Silver Remi at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival.

They are currently writing, producing and starring in an on-line animated series to help kids (age 3-7) stay safe and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak.  You can watch them here: https://www.spikeandtoody.com/  

Mike Erskine-Kellie & Susan McLennan read from their book, “I Got You A Present!” Got You A Present! from Spike & Toody TV on Vimeo.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of the author and Kids Can Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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