One of my favorite things about picture books and my kids, is observing which books become favorites. Sometimes the new favorite is a book I purposefully chose, strategically kept out in sight, and then felt contentedly smug when it easily won their hearts just like I thought it would. Other times, I feel shocked and a little perplexed at why certain books become a reigning favorite. And I’m maybe even a little relieved when they fade into the distance depending on how much I enjoyed the book myself or strained under the repetition and reader requirements (I’m looking at you Sandra Boynton’s Doggies). Then there are others that I myself admired, had on my own shelves for months or years even (this is the problem with owning too many books), and for some random reason I finally pull it down to share it with the kids. Bingo! They are hooked.
This is such a book. If I allowed stickers on books, my girls would have covered this one in gold stars of love. I cannot even remember what made me pull this down in the first place, but it has been the resounding favorite for over a month now – with both kids. My oldest has even changed her hair style to wear two barrettes on each side just like Amelia, every day. It doesn’t matter what my girls are doing, if I pick this book up and even crack the spine, suddenly they have landed in a spot by my side and silently wait for the reading to begin. This book is no longer mine alone. So of course, I must share it here too. Just in case you haven’t yet discovered Nilson for yourself yet. Allow me to present No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora, 2013.
Nilson and Amelia are the best of friends. They do everything together, well except baths as seen in the spread above. But unfortunately in their friendship, all it takes sometimes is a little upset and Nilson throws the most terrible fits possible.
And they always get into trouble together for those. So Amelia does her part as a good friend and works very hard to help Nilson stay in control. She looks for those triggers that will set him off: like doing errands, waiting too long in a line, and wanting a snack that someone else has.
She uses various methods of distraction including calling errands adventures, sharing her favorite toy, and my girls’ favorite spread of all – giving Nilson a gorilla eye lock and repeating the phrase “banana ice cream” over and over and over again.
But then one day, the tables are turned and it is Amelia who falls apart at the slightest change to her desires. This time Nilson has to help pull Amelia back together and the ending is delightful, heartwarming, and even includes a clever twist which I find brilliant and my girls are continually intrigued and yet equally confused by. I am greatly anticipating the day they figure it out on their own.
There are a lot of things going on here that I love. The first reason I was drawn to this book are the illustrations. OHora uses acrylic on Stonehenge printmaking paper (beautifully uncoated paper too!) to make incredibly bold and graphically beautiful images. I love the color palette and his use of flat colors frequently outlined by varying black strokes, but not everything is outlined which keeps it from feeling too much like a cartoon. OHora is also a huge fan of white space and it works excellently, giving room for the illustrations to breathe and the fits to have maximum impact.
One of the most surprising things to me about this book though was how quickly it resonated with my little ones. We had only read it a couple of times before I started hearing phrases from it being used in daily interactions. And it wasn’t even the favorite “banana ice cream” repetition, which always garners the most hilarity during reading. It was actually a perfectly appropriate use of requesting no fits from each other, and even once from their mama on a particularly frustrating day. Ha! Despite this book having no arm-twisting moral tone to its agenda, Nilson has been incredibly effective at helping my kids figure out their own responses to life’s curveballs, which as a kid, are many everyday. And I strongly believe that is one of the reasons they adore it. They totally and completely relate to both Nilson and Amelia in their fits. And they feel empowered to be a part of the learning process with the characters too. Only once does the mom do the actual first step of intervening, but Amelia is the one to see-it-through to effectiveness with Nilson.
The book is a marvelous read-aloud, requiring some good verbal fit-mimicking on a couple occasions. My two-year old can often be heard reading it to herself because she loves the awesome balance of narration and action. And as a parent, there is a lot of stuff going on that you feel connected to and almost proud of the characters for. The methods Amelia comes up with to keep Nilson from a tantrum feels at times very familiar as a parent, and also brilliant that she pulls it off herself.
Nilson and Amelia are now beloved characters in our home. And this is now my go-to anger management type picture book, since some of the other “classics” are just not my thing. And keep a look-out for Zachariah OHora. He puts out some amazing books.