Wednesday, October 21, 2009

REVIEW: Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick

Charlip, R. & Supree, B.  (1966).  Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick.  Berkeley, CA:  Tricycle Press.


As can be assumed by the title, a child isn't feeling well and his mother calls for a doctor.  The doctor soon discovers that the boy, who initially appears balloon-shaped, ate a teeny-weeny-taddy-waddy-bit tooooooo much.  Just a little.  *Holds up fingers a mere inch apart*  And while initially it seems the boy just ate too many apples and too much cake (with the candles still lit), the doctor soon discovers the boys appetite extends to much more than food.

The illustrations show that the book is set in the Victorian era, when doctors making house calls were more common.  The outlines of the adults' outfits are fun, with the doctor in a stovepipe hat and the woman with poofy-shouldered sleeves and a dress.  The backgrounds and settings are colorful and beautifully patterned (For reals!  I wants that purple wall paper!!!!!!).  The characters and featured objects are often white, as though they are cut-out figures and light is shining through behind them.  At other times they are all black, as though they are shadow puppets.  (Although, the objects the sick boy ate are in color)  The book also uses the space of the page well, often showing a lot of empty space between the doctor and boy and the location where the mother waits for her son to improve.

The vast majority of young readers will find humor in the crazy things the young boy ate.  I was particularly entertained by the boy's taste for hats.  Of course, there will probably be a small percentage of readers, who will take the book very seriously.  For those students, I recommend telling them that gullible is written on the ceiling.  And then stealing their lunch money.  Hopefully that'll help them develop a sense of humor.  Who me?  A child bully?

But seriously, I like the rhythm that Mother Mother I Feel Sick has.  It lends itself to a quick read aloud, that a teacher could then go back over at a slower pace.   After I first read the title, I wandered away to do non-bloggery things and I found myself repeating "Send for the doctor, quick, quick, quick" over and over again in my head.  It wouldn't go away.  "Quick.  Quick.  Quick."

The picturebook does feature stereotypical gender roles in the adults.  The man is a doctor and the woman is portrayed solely in terms of being a worried mother.


Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick can be used to help a young child overcome a fear of doctors.  While a parent or teacher could describe the boy as having surgery, no icky details are shown and the boy is shown to recover quickly and be better off because of the experience.

Since the boy's problem is his appetite, a teacher can use this book in a discussion of obesity and choosing meals wisely.

The story could also be used as a counting book, since a teacher could have students count all of the objects the boy eats.  Plus, the text includes sentences like, "One!  Two!  Three!  And one's a ball!"  I'm not making a big stretch here.

After sharing this story, a teacher could also present students with shadow puppets for the first time.  (While I came to this conclusion all by myself, a small note at the end also recommends this)  If the teacher wanted to stick close to the original story, they could have a few students voice the characters, since all of the story is shared in dialogue.

Quotes of Note:

"Well, he's gotten so much fatter.
And he has a stomach ache.
Is there some medicine he can take?"

"I'll look at his stomach and see what's in it."

"I see the trouble, right on top.
I'll take it out and fix him up."

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