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Picture Book Tuesday: Hooray for Saturday!

Front cover of picture book "Saturday."

My son Micah pees in the potty, no spills. I successfully fish the plastic wand out of his bottle of bubbles. The brownies come out of the oven, not too squishy, not too hard.

Each time - whenever anything goes right - my son squeals, "Hooray for SATURDAY!"

Oge Mora's Saturday is a gorgeous picture book composed of bright colors, collaged scenes, and a persistent mother-daughter duo who refuse to give up when their precious Saturday - the only day of the week that they spend together - keeps trying to go sideways. First story time at the library is canceled. Then a car sprays water across their new hairdos. They end up at the park where there is no decompressing to be found, what with all the singers and Djembe drummers and kickball games and wailing babies. And so they make a last stab at success, sprinting to catch the bus which will take them to the "extra special, one-night-only puppet show" - only to discover that Ava's mother has forgotten the tickets.

So much for Saturday.

Micah's mouth actually wobbled the first time I read him this scene. He stared at the show sign, the big theater doors, with the salivating interest of a little boy whose memories at this point barely pre-date COVID-19. His wanting, his willing-the-story-to-turn-around, was palpable, as was his teary sympathy when Ava's mother finally broke down with guilt and frustration.

But Ava pats her shoulder and tells her not to worry. They're together, she says. That's all that matters. The two go home and resolve to do an art project together, and here the author seems to duck out - maybe wanting to get in on the tape and construction paper action herself. "What a wonderful day," the story concludes. Ava and her mother both sport pink flamingo puppets on their hands.

On each reading, Micah stares at those flamingo puppets until the book is fully closed. Another kind of interest, a bright-eyed wondering. A few days ago - it was a Saturday, actually - I asked him, "Do you want to make flamingo puppets?"

He beamed. "Yes!"

Rooster, whale, elephant, and flamingo stick puppets on a picnic table.

We spent the next hour working. When we finished one puppet, he wanted to call his grandma. We tried her but didn't get through, so we made another flamingo instead. This time we reached his aunt, who asked what other animals we were going to make. By the end of the hour, we had a menagerie: a mother and child flamingo, an elephant, a baby Beluga whale, and a magnificent pink and green rooster. We also had a sofa arm coated in pink marker, what Micah had apparently occupied himself with while I cut out spindly chicken legs and a bright crown.

But that's exactly what I love about this book - its epic realness. Ava's mother is wonderful yet harried. Ava is bright-eyed yet quickly discouraged. The final page finds them both asleep on the couch, slight smiles on their faces, bits of paper and paint and a soon-to-tangle ball of yarn scattered around them. I can see them dreaming peacefully. I can also see Ava's mother rousing herself, in ten or fifteen minutes, to carry her daughter off to bed, to set about picking up a very messy living room in order to start a six-day work week again the next day. It's beautiful and it's very, very hard.

Oge Mora doesn't ask us to choose between the beauty and the disappointment. She wraps them into one big ball of yarn and lets them tangle and unravel where they may.

Hooray for Saturday <3

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