Izzy Neis, I Want to Potty (Piggy Toes Press, 2005)
I have held forth, in a number of reviews (most of them of teenlit), on the difference—admittedly, sometimes very slight—between using age-appropriate language and talking down to one’s audience. There are some other shades to the problem as well that I don’t usually go into, having less to do with the author’s intended language and more to do with the author’s actual language (usually, in these cases, gleaned from “how to write” books that tell you things like you should try to avoid using “said” too often and instead substitute synonyms—here’s a note, kids, that almost always ends up making your dialogue sound clunky), but in the end, it always comes back to whether you’re treating your audience like equals or like idiots. I should rush to add there that not every book that uses easy language is talking down to kids; the reason Dr. Seuss’ books are still so popular all these years later is that he got the difference. He used simple language, but he didn’t strip out any of the wordplay, and as a result he wrote books that are as much fun for adults as they are for kids, and they make kids feel smarter for reading them. All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that I Want to Potty is very much not one of those books; this is language that has been stripped of anything save didacticism, and what’s worse it’s not even all that simple. It’s the potty-training equivalent of sitting a kid down for the birds and the bees talk and handing him a book written in the fifties instead of actually talking.
For all that, though, it does have some interactivity to it, and because of that the Bean makes this one a regular stop at story time, and because of that I’m giving it a higher rating than I otherwise would; if you’re anything like me, you’re going to tire of it pretty quickly, but the kids just love it. **