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Jake’s Best Thumb By Ilene Cooper; illustrated by Claudio Munoz

Jake's ThumbJake’s Best Thumb
By Ilene Cooper; illustrated by Claudio Munoz
Dutton Children’s Books; $16.99
32 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0525477884

Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews

Young Jake’s a star thumb sucker. No matter what he’s doing, whether it’s riding his bike or getting dressed, he can figure out a way to do it with only nine fingers. No amount of warning from well-meaning family members can sway him. When mom says he’ll end up with rabbit teeth, he thinks it might be fun to be a rabbit. When dad tells him he’s too big to suck his thumb, well, he thinks, his sister is still bigger than he is. It isn’t until kindergarten, when Jake needs his thumb like he’s never needed it before.

All those new kids, that big school… Jake’s thumb is in his mouth before he even realizes it and almost immediately, he’s called on it by Cliff, the class bully. It isn’t until a playground showdown turns the tables that Jake and Cliff realize that maybe they have more in common than they could ever have imagined.

Any parent with a hardcore thumb sucker at home will find Ilene Cooper’s Jake’s Best Thumb an endearing and encouraging story. And young thumb suckers will find themselves rooting for Jake as he tries very hard to resist the impulse to put his thumb in his mouth. Treating the subject with honesty and compassion, Jake’s struggles are viewed realistically. The hopeful conclusion — that maybe tomorrow he’ll be able to able to skip sucking his thumb — is satisfying and encouraging.

Ilene Cooper handles the whole subject with a light yet realistic hand. Far from making Jake (or by extension, any of young reader) feel like he or she is the only person in the world needing this kind of comfort, Jake’s growing realization that others (his friend Nell and her toy cat, and even Cliff the bully and the blankie remnant he keeps secretly stuffed in his pocket) alleviates some of the concern and isolation that thumb-sucking kids might feel. Jake’s Best Thumb is informative and reassuring for young readers.

Jake’s Best Thumb comes from two children’s book veterans — Ilene Cooper has written more than two dozen books and Claudio Munoz has illustrated Just Another Morning (by Linda Ashman) and Ahwoooooooo! (by Yannick Murphy). The book pairing of text and artwork are perfect, allowing young readers to experience and explore Jake’s mixed feelings about his thumb and whether or not he is ready to stop sucking it. Claudio Munoz’s colorful artwork perfectly captures Jake’s bravado and his anxiety.

An informative as well as entertaining book, Jake’s Best Thumb is sure to be a popular choice for families with thumb-sucking kids as well as children who are clinging to a cozy, blankie, or other much-loved toy or stuffed animal.