The crazier the world gets—and it’s been especially crazy lo these past few years—the more I crave simplicity. Based on my first two posts of 2020, this longing applies to picture books as well. This month’s pick? The Perfect Seat by Minh Lê, illustrated by Gus Gordon (Disney-Hyperion, 2019).
Like Good Boy (featured last month), The Perfect Seat has few words—just over 60 in all. Also like that book, it’s fully formed despite its brevity and works on several levels. As a writer (and reader), here’s what I liked:
1. The story starts before the title page. I like when picture books draw us in as soon as we crack them open and incorporate the title into the preceding text. It’s like a little appetizer before the main course.
2. It’s simple yet satisfying. Papa Moose and his little boy have a brand new book. But they need just the right place to read it. Will they find it? It’s a classic story structure: The protagonists want something, search and search without success, then—Eureka!—they find it. Mission accomplished.
3. It’s relatable. Whether you’re a kid or a grown-up, it IS important to find just the right seat when reading. Yes, dedicated readers will read anywhere, but the experience is so much better when you’re curled up in your favorite spot.
4. It’s a lesson in opposites. Papa and son try a range of seats that just won’t do—they’re too big/too small, too old/too new, etc.—adding another layer to the story.
5. The pattern is broken, adding interest and humor. Just when you think the book consists of a string of opposites, Minh Lê shakes things up. Papa Moose, wild-eyed on a tire swing, asks: Should the perfect seat make you this dizzy? (Apologies that my camera doesn’t do justice to Gus Gordon’s warm and appealing art.)
I also like that this spread, with “Too Thin” on the right, made way for the following spread, one of my favorites in the book:
6. It ends on a sweet note. Like Good Boy, the book has a cozy “Aww” ending. Papa despairs of ever finding the right spot and plops down dejectedly beneath a tree. His son cries “Found it!” and leaps into his lap, ending with a word that sums up the whole book: PERFECT.
7. The endpapers continue the story. I’ve never used my master’s degree in Urban Planning professionally, but I love studying places and I LOVE maps! The endpapers show the little town and the various spots the two have visited—the bookstore, the tire swing, the too-wide bench. I can imagine kids poring over the endpapers and retelling the whole story.
And there it is: a beautiful little respite from the madness.
Where’s your favorite reading spot? Mine is at one end of the couch in my office, my husband at the other, with Sammy sprawled in between. Here she is, waiting for company…
Thanks for reading. Hope you’re doing it in exactly the right spot!
Anytime I can read to a little is my perfect seat. Great Book!
So true, Deb. That’s the best!
Okay, I will certainly be looking for this book, and for the perfect place to read it!
I bet you’ll like it, Cindy!
What a wonderful review! I put this book (And “Good Boy”) on my get list. Love the picture of your office, pup and the sunlight streaming in…
Thanks, Lori! Sammy is an excellent office mate–quiet (mostly), and always willing to provide comfort and comic relief. 🙂
What a gift to capture this great story in 60 words!
Yes, it’s an impressive feat! Thanks, Joan!
Awww, the lap, of course – perfect! Love the simplicity and sweet message.
Me too, Danielle!
This looks terrific! Thank you for sharing.
It IS terrific! Thanks, David!
Love seeing your old girl, Sammy, since I just lost mine in November :(. She always had the perfect seat in my study, snoring away while I wrote.
Can’t wait to read this. Minh & Gus are a dream team! I’ve long loved Gus’s work, and Herman & Rosie is one of my favorites!!
I’m so sorry, Maria. Dogs are the best companions.
And I agree–definitely a dream team pairing for this book!
Such a sweet, gentle book…A winner, for sure!
Yes it is. Thanks, Kathy!
Such a satisfying story! And of course I am fond of moose. 😉
I do love a good moose book, particularly yours! 🙂
I adore this book! So sweet and comforting with the “just right” ending. I read in bed and usually paperbacks after I had the unfortunate experience of a hardcover hitting me right between the eyes and raising a curious goose egg I had to explain!
Yikes–the hazards of reading in bed! Wise to switch to paperbacks, Susie. 🙂
Minh Lê has managed to be both charming and succinct! It looks like an adorable book!
Yes, he really has. And it IS adorable. Thanks, Mary!
Such a sweet book. There is nothing better than finding the perfect spot to read!
I agree, Judy!
Such a sweet story! Love the illustrations, too. Thank you for sharing this.
Yes, the illustrations are really charming. Thanks for reading, Kathy!
Love that ending! My favorite reading spot is in a gazebo at the park when the weather is nice.
Oh, that sounds lovely, Michelle! Dreaming of gazebo-reading weather (it’s pouring rain here at the moment).
That’s a great ending to a sweet book! Thanks for the post.
Thanks for reading, Eileen!
I just read this last week and found myself thinking 1) this is so simple why didn’t I think of it!? And 2) Yet it’s also so complex. It hits all the right notes–just as you pointed out. A great readaloud, or better yet, the perfect lap-sit share. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Linda.
Yep, so simple, but lots of layers. Thanks, LeeAnn!
I’m the kind who will read anywhere. Sounds like a great book! Thanks for telling us about it.
Thanks for reading, Kathy!
There’s a big “awww” factor in this book and in your photo. Thanks for the rec!
I’ll tell Sammy you said so. She’s in her spot right now. 🙂
Going on my list. I love the endpaper maps. ?
Aren’t they wonderful? Thanks, Mary!
I really want to read this book! Perfect! Thanks for sharing with us. I love reading in comfy places, but especially comfy places with great lighting. And maybe coffee or tea and a cozy fire.
I’m with you on the comfy places with great lighting…and coffee. Thanks, Angie!
I need to read this book! My perfect spot is in my sunroom, bookended by my weenie dogs!
Oh, that sounds perfect! Thanks, Dedra!
Spot on! I’m looking forward to reading this gem. =)
It IS a gem. Thanks, Bridget!
Thanks so much for this lovely post about our book!
I had so much fun illustrating Minh’s story. When my agent sent me Minh’s manuscript I wasn’t illustrating books for other people at the time, as I wanted to concentrate on my books, but when I read this sweet little story I knew I had to say ‘yes’. The text didn’t specify that the characters were people (thankfully) as I, for some unknown reason, pictured a Moose and his son looking for a place to read the book. And once I’d drawn them I was locked in. It was a pleasure working with Minh.
Many thanks, Gus
Hello, Gus! So nice of you to stop by! I love Papa Moose and his little boy, and those endpapers, and your work in general. In fact, I have SOMEWHERE ELSE in my office right now. It’s really wonderful as well–and I love those endpapers too. Thanks so much for your note!
Oh, thank you Linda! I love picture book endpapers (and old vintage catalogues).
By the way, my new book, ‘Finding François’, is out in early July. Received an advanced copy in the post only yesterday (a bit of a sneak peek on my Instagram).
Take care! GG
Just took a peek. It looks gorgeous! Perhaps you’d like to come visit us again to chat about it this summer? We’d love that.
Thank you. Love to chat about it in the summer! Thanks for the invite!
This book packs so much for its simple text. I really enjoyed it.
I LOVE the idea of this book, and those end papers! Plus, Gus is one of my absolute faves. 🙂
I can see why after your fabulous I AM COW collaboration!
Your Sammy looks just like our Lily. They could have been sisters. Lily was a great dog to read with and the perfect place was anywhere she was too. I look forward to reading this picture book.