After 12 years working in a school library, you’d think I would be over my amazement at how much it matters to young kids to be first: first in line, first to check out their books, first to ask a question. It goes on and on. No matter how much I assure our five and six-year-olds that their place in line is not that important, it still is. I literally find myself saying things like this: “you walked into the library first last week…why don’t we let your friend be the first to come in today?” And I work in a Montessori school – a place where we, to put it mildy, don’t emphasize competition. But…coming in first place in my favorite new picture books for this month is…..Cheetah Can’t Lose by Bob Shea.
The book had a head start. Bob Shea is one of the most talented (and funny) people in the children’s picture book world. His books I’m a Shark and New Socks are go-to books when I have a group of young kids in the library who just want to laugh! His books have energy – an important quality in books for young listeners.
In Cheetah Can’t Lose, Shea presents a loveable cheetah and two really cute cats that, on page one, announce that “It’s big race day!” It’s clear from the title page (where we see Cheetah admiring himself in the mirror) that Cheetah expects to win at whatever the race is – and his feline friends are going to have a little fun with him. The cats set up a few roadblocks to point out Cheetah’s arrogance, but in the end, they don’t really want to embarrass their friend. This is a story about friendship – as well as a lesson about overconfidence!