Let’s not beat around the bush. There can only be ONE best children’s book ever, right? So forget what you thought you knew and take a bite of this: The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord. Lest you scoff at that title as a typical Millennial exaggeration, let me qualify: I’ve been obsessed with children’s books for over 30 years and have never come across one that is as universally enjoyable.*
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Originally published in 1972, its vintage-looking illustrations most likely looked vintage even in 1972. They’re pretty weird (some may even say creepy), but chock full of awesome details and a townie who looks just like Rhea Perlman. There’s plenty to explore on each page, even if you’re not reading the words.
While John Vernon Lord‘s story and pictures are a total hoot, the real magic comes from the verses, written by Janet Burroway. They are quirky, British, and flow perfectly. I remember learning vocabulary words like “pate” and “nuisance” probably pre-kindergarten, as my parents (who can still recite the book, 25+ years since their last reading) read it to my older brothers.
The Giant Jam Sandwich tells the story of a town that has to band together to figure out how to get rid of a nasty wasp infestation. They are confounded until resident genius, Bap the Baker, suggests trapping them all in an enormous sandwich. Isn’t this exactly how kids think? Their plan is hilariously impractical and an exorbitant amount of work, but that’s what makes it so fun. I have been reading it to my toddler since the day she was born and it’s such a fun story that she doesn’t even try to turn the pages for me. Now that’s magic.
Mom’s review: Timeless, entertaining, educational, perfection.
Toddler’s review: It really gets good once the buses and tractors and horses get involved. Funny story and Mom does all the weird voices. I don’t mind how long it is because it means I go to bed a little later. HA! Parents are suckers.
Baby’s review: I see the sandwich but I can’t eat the sandwich. Not cool. But it’s a long story and Mommy holds me the whole time, so I like it anyway.
*I enjoy Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs exactly as much as The Giant Jam Sandwich, but I have not tested it on as broad an audience as this one.
Mom to two little ones who are way cuter than they have any right to be. Locavore, bibliophile, ambivert. Lover of architecture, the desert, and raisins. Caffeine free. Probably hangry right now.
I wrote about desert landscaping and urban water conservation in my former life.