If Only – written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout


If Only – written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout, translated by David Colmer, Pajama Press, 9781772781960, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  This colorful circle story will appeal to lovers of Eric Carle. Using ink, gouache and collage, Van Hout follows a child who wishes she was a butterfly, the butterfly who wishes it was a stick insect, the stick insect who wishes it was a beetle, etc. Each double page illustration focuses on one unique trait that the species possesses, so the firefly wishes it was a bee, so it would always have friends to help, while the bee wishes to be a spider, so “I could do everything myself.” The lovely and vibrant illustrations fill every page right to the edge and it’s easy to tell which creature is speaking and wishing. Of course, in the end, the dragonfly wishes to be a child, so it could run, jump, laugh, and play. An afterwards includes a glossary of creatures, with a few facts about each insect, and a set of directions for how to replicate Van Hout’s collage techniques.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would make a good activator for a pre-school or kindergarten class embarking on an insect unit. With its large, bright illustrations and sing-song text, it would be great for a read aloud. It could also be a good mentor text for circle stories or for getting young children to write and draw their own “I wish” stories. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary or public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 25, 2021

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