In this children’s book written by three medical doctors, a young boy learns an important lesson about hand-washing and hygiene.
Alex and Jordan are playing soccer together when Alex gets dirty. With hands and clothes covered in mud, he returns home, worried his mother will be angry. Once home, he eats a snack without first washing his hands. When his mother comes into the room, she warns him that washing hands is an important part of staying healthy. Sure enough, Alex soon comes down with an illness and spends a day in bed, thus learning his lesson to always wash his hands.
The authors of Handwashing Is No Big Deal write in a note to parents in the back of the book that they hope this story will teach “the importance of handwashing in a fun and creative way.”
This is a laudable goal. Unfortunately, the beauty of well-written picture books is the economy of words—something Handwashing fails to achieve. Sentences are long and complex, and unnecessary details bog down the pace. The opening sentence, for example, reads, “‘No matter how hard you try, you will never score a goal,’ Alex teased Jordan while they played football in the yard one sunny Sunday morning.”
Additionally, the characters don’t speak like real children, their conversation sounding, instead, like a poorly disguised lecture from an adult. After getting sick, Alex says to his friend, “The doctor told me that to avoid this from happening again, it is always a good idea to wash my hands properly before I touch my food.” His friend replies, “Yes, my mother always reminds me of that. We need to wash off the germs on our hands.”
Although the motivation for the story is noble, awkward writing and unconvincing characterization make Handwashing is No Big Deal unlikely to draw a large audience of young readers.