Candlewick Press, February 2004
Pictures by Harry Bliss
The title of DON’T FORGET TO COME BACK! came from the moment I said to my young child as I dropped him off at his pre-school which he loved, “I’ll be back to pick you up at 3.”
After saying that, he said to me, cheerily, “Don’t Forget To Come Back!” pointing out without saying it the ever-present worry — what if mommy or daddy does not come back?
What’s so exciting to me is the way that Harry’s art so beautifully illustrates and gives the words I wrote even more resonance and meaning for young children. At the end of the book, the child tells her parents, “Guess what else? This morning, when I tiptoed into Daddy and Mommy’s room there they were-asleep and snoring in the big bed. I gave them squeezy hugs and noisy kisses-and they both woke up. And when they saw me, they were so happy I didn’t forget to come back-all the way from the South Pole.”
Harry’s art shows so clearly and beautifully the relief the child has when seeing her parents have actually returned. She says “And when they saw me, they were so happy I didn’t forget to come back.” And they were. But it’s the parents return that makes the child feel happy, and might I add relieved. And it’s Harry’s art that gives the story needed emotional punch.
“Harris takes on separation anxiety and leavens it with lots of humor. The story is told by a girl whose parents are dressing up for a night on the town. First, she tries reasoning with them (1. I am NOT a baby. 2. I’m a BIG kid. 3. So I do NOT need a stupid babysitter!”) and then threatening them (“…if you go out tonight, the biggest baddest moose will walk into the kitchen-and eat me all up!”). Her parents stay calm, the sitter arrives. Mom and Dad leave, and the resolution builds gradually (and happily) from there. Bliss’s beautifully executed watercolor cartoons are a perfect foil for this comic tale; they are understated, friendly, and deceptively simple. Harris draws a fine line with the parents’ attitude and succeeds admirably; they listen to their daughter without any impatience or anger, yet not even the youngest listeners will think there’s a chance they’ll stay home. This story reassures children that someone will always be there, that their parents will come back when they say they will, and that the adults-not their offspring-are ultimately in charge. Getting this message across without undermining a youngster’s self-respect is a real feat, and gives this book on a familiar topic a fresh tone.”
-Lauralyn Persson, School Library Journal (starred review), March 2004
“When a little girl’s father announces that he and the child’s mother are going out for the evening, the girl uses a variety of strategies to dissuade her parents. She offers to go with them, packing her essentials, including ballet shoes and monster book. She threatens dire calamities in their absence — storms, illness, and even a random moose attack. Then hip, easy-going babysitter Sarah arrives, and the child ends up having a lovely evening, sprinkling pickles on her pizza and applying clown makeup. In the morning, she’s delighted to find that her parents have indeed returned home, and she wakes them with kisses. Author Robie Harris’ playful, rhythmic text, written in the defiant heroine’s voice, skillfully conveys a child’s attempt to mask fear and discomfort with blustering protests. Many children will see themselves in the anxious girl as she tries to command her distracted parents’ attention.”
“…tells a universal tale — one of a little girl who really doesn’t want to stay with a baby sitter. She tries everything — threats, running away, (for a minute), hiding in a closet and making her parents promise they’ll return. But after the fun baby sitter arrives, her mood changes and she enjoys herself once again. Youngsters will certainly relate to Harris’ honest portrayal.”
-Lodi News Sentinel
“The narrator is simply furious that not only are her parents insisting on going out, Sarah, the baby sitter, is coming. Of course Sarah is one cool sitter, they have a grand time, and the illustrations are very funny.”
-The New York Times Sunday Book Review, June 6, 2004
“Robie H. Harris turns her talent for articulating kids’ deepest emotions to a perennial childhood drama: a night with a baby-sitter. Young readers will easily recognize themselves in Harris’s winning protagonist, who reveals in a chatty first-person text her ploys for keeping Mom and Dad at home. Yet this is not shchmaltzy “bibliotherapy.” The feelings are palpably real, and the story, before and after the geekily cool sitter arrives, is highly entertaining. New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss (Diary of a Worm) laces his animated watercolor-and-ink illustrations with impish detail — note the little girl’s penchant for classic horror films and the mother’s big-night-out blue eye shadow. With any luck, Harris and Bliss won’t forget to come back-with a follow-up effort.”
-Alicia Potter, FamilyFun, March 2004
“The young narrator of this family drama does not want her parents to go out for the evening. She tries logic (“I am NOT a baby…So I do NOT need a stupid babysitter!”), threats (“if you go out tonight, the biggest, baddest moose will walk into the kitchen-and eat me all up!”), guilt (“if you really, really love me, you’ll take me with you”), and finally, running away (to the closet). Her parents blithely persist in their preparations for the evening and, resigning herself, she tells them the most important thing: “‘DON’T FORGET TO COME BACK!” Of course, her babysitter turns out to be totally cool, no moose attacks the house, and her parents don’t forget to come back after all. Harris strikes just the right note with her bossy and emotionally mercurial narrator as she moves from anger to pleading to enjoying her evening with her babysitter and reuniting with her parents in the morning. Bliss brings his New Yorker sensibility to the illustrations, creating an elegant and stylish interior to go with the elegant and stylish parents (even the babysitter is teenage stylish). The grownups’ facial expressions remain neutral and patient through all of the little girl’s protests; they’ve obviously been here before. Bliss grays his watercolors throughout, adding to the sophistication of the setting and foregrounding the narrator’s separation anxiety as well as her anger at her lack of power. By playing out the entire script of this all-too-common drama, Harris creates a reassuring text for both children and parents, allaying fears for the former and absolving guilt for the latter.”
-The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, April 2004
“Treading on some familiar ground, Harris’s (Happy Birth Day!) energetic story offers a voluble child’s views about being left with a baby-sitter. Faced with the prospect of Mommy and Daddy going out for the evening, a girl pulls out all the stops to prompt a change in plans: “If you go out tonight, I’ll get a very bad tummy ache-and I’ll throw up!” “If you really, really love me, you’ll take me with you”; etc. The girl’s logic, threats and bold entreaties don’t sway the adults; and baby-sitter Sarah soon arrives. Since Sarah is “so-ooo cool,” the young charge sheds her angry feelings during a night of fingernail painting and pizza. Harris gets all the childhood emotions right, and by creating parents who have seen it all before, she helps paint a humorous family portrait that many readers will recognize. Bliss (A Fine, Fine School) skillfully matches Harris’s tone, simultaneously illustrating the heroine’s wildly imagined scenarios and the reality of her unruffled parents’ preparations for a night on the town. The ink-and-watercolor compositions depict some finely appointed rooms filled with artwork, as well as a cozy child’s bedroom-a deft balance of homey-ness and sophistication.”
-Publishers Weekly, February 2, 2004
“It’s a night out at the opera for Mommy and Daddy while their demanding, somewhat overly imaginative preschooler is apprehensive about staying home with babysitter, Sarah. Numerous attempts at foreshadowing drastic results, negotiating deals, and retreating to the safety of her bedroom have no effect. An anxious “Goodbye, Mommy!” and “Goodbye, Daddy!” bring out this little girl’s true feelings: “Don’t forget to come back!” Large and sometimes-oversized watercolor/ink-lined drawings illustrate the youngster’s dire predictions and fears with ballooned dialogue amidst a culturally oriented middle-class home. Harris confidently portrays the rest of the evening as “Silly Sarah” shares pepperoni and pineapple pizza, encourages wearing clown makeup and painting toenails, and reads a cool monster bedtime story to her sleepy charge. Morning brings an affectionate reunion as Mommy and Daddy are informed of the evening’s events from one preschooler’s perspective. “The South Pole is too cold / Sarah is so-ooo silly! / And she didn’t let a single moose in the house.” An amusing, sophisticated look at an age-old concern, reflecting the emotions of separation anxiety through the eyes of a verbal, assertive child.”
-Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2004
“If you’re a parent, you’ll identify with Robie Harris’ hilarious new book, Don’t Forget to Come Back!, the story of a child determined not to have a babysitter. This fireball of a little heroine whips up her own brand of logic to convince mom and dad of the disasters likely to befall her in their absence. She warns them that a thunderstorm will come and blow the house down, that she’ll get a stomachache and throw up, that she’ll be eaten by a moose in their very own kitchen.
The girl’s parents react perfectly to her theatrics: they’re mildly sympathetic but unflappable, and as equally determined to go to the opera as their daughter is to have them stay. As the girl runs away (to a closet), they don their own coats and shout, “We miss you already, Sugar. Hope you won’t be gone forever!”
A popular children’s author, Robie Harris has written a zippy text that’s full of easy-to-read dialogue between family members, with much of the conversation presented in comic book-style balloons. Harry Bliss, cartoonist for The New Yorker, has also sketched his characters in comic-book style, with simple facial lines but wonderfully real details and expressions.
In the end, the parents leave, and a very nice babysitter named Sarah saves the evening. Yes, our heroine has a good time pretending to go to the South Pole, painting her toenails and using makeup to give herself a clown face. Most importantly, though, her parents do come home.
Bliss and Harris have teamed up to tackle a very tough subject for young children, and they do so with heartfelt emotion and humor. (Just take a look at the final spread-I won’t spoil the surprise!) It’s no easy task to express a child’s fears and still be reassuring, but this duo pulls it off. No doubt kids across the country will be shouting a new code phrase to their departing parents after sharing this book: “Don’t forget to come back!”
-Alice Cary, Bookpage, February 2004
“1. I am NOT a baby. 2. I’m a BIG kid. 3. So I do NOT need a stupid babysitter!” The small heroine of this story informs her father of these “three very important things,” but she cannot prevent the inevitable-Mommy and Daddy are going out. Threats of a tummy ache, running away to the South Pole, even a moose in the kitchen will not change their plans (announced by an opera playbill on the breakfast table). But guess what? Sarah the babysitter is “not stupid. She’s silly!” The two girls are so busy eating pizza and painting toenails that they don’t have time to leave for the South Pole. In text and pictures, the little girl is spunky, not forlorn, smiling peacefully after hearing her monster book five times at bedtime. We never worry for her but understand her desires completely-there’s no substitute for your very own parents. Mommy and Daddy give calm reassurances as they go about their own preparations, modeling healthy short-term separations. Cartoonist Bliss depicts this well-adjusted family in a warm, gracious home, decorated with works of art that feed the child’s imagination (both moose and Antarctic penguins appear in paintings). A snuggle in Mommy and Daddy’s bed the next morning confirms that they didn’t forget to come back-a very important point that can’t be repeated too often for young children.”
-Horn Book Magazine, March/April 2004
“Oh, to be left with a babysitter! The tribulations of staying home while Mom and Dad go out are humorously, thoughtfully brought to life by acclaimed children’s book author Robie H. Harris and illustrator Harry Bliss. In Bliss’s sophisticated illustrations, which split Harris’s text into narrative and speech bubbles, this amusing read shows a little girl attempting to persuade her parents to stay home with sly tactics and excuses, including “’3. And if you go out tonight, the biggest, baddest moose will walk into the kitchen — and eat me all up!’” Mom and Dad are busy readying themselves for a night out, however, and while they provide reassurances that she’s loved and that they’ll come back, the girl makes up her mind to run away. But when Sarah the babysitter shows up, the girl begins to realize that her situation isn’t all bad: After pizza with pepperoni and pineapple, toenail painting, and bedtime stories, she falls fast asleep. And of course, the next morning, she visits her parents as they snooze in bed and tells them all about her fun evening with Sarah. A smart, marvelous read that fills a picture book gap about being with babysitters, this page-turner will keep kids giggling and ultimately leave them reassured. Bliss does a great job incorporating witty visual extras into his art, while Harris’s text speaks loud and clear for, and to, children who have similar fears as this little girl. After sharing this with your little one, bringing in a babysitter should be no problem.”
-Shana Taylor, Barnes & Noble/www.bn.com
“Parents who grew up in the ’70s might remember Robie H. Harris’ clever story about a plucky little girl who fires up her imagination to trick her parents into not going out for the evening. In “Don’t Forget To Come Back!” the girl first tells her father that she is not a baby and doesn’t need a “stupid baby sitter.” When that doesn’t work, she escalates. If they go out, she says, she will get sick and throw up, or a big moose will “walk into the kitchen ‘ and eat me all up!” Dad’s not moved. Next she offers to pack some food and a stuffed toy and join them. “We always love you, Pumpkin, even when we go out,” Mom says as she puts on her make-up. Stymied, the little girl decides to run away ‘ into the closet with her stuffed panda. Just as her parents go out the door in their semi-formal attire, their daughter threatens to go to the South Pole and never come back. Baby sitter Sarah asks if she can come, too. “Well, okay, Silly Sarah,” the girl answers, thinking, “I do like Sarah. And she’s not stupid.” The two of them share an evening of reading, eating pizza and painting toenails purple. Harris’ story is as fresh and funny today as it was when it first appeared in 1978. Details in the expressive watercolors by Harry Bliss show he clearly remembers what is important to a child. The composition of his uncluttered illustrations makes it easy for young eyes to pick out his sly details, such as paintings on the wall that reflect some of the girl’s fantasies.”
-The Sacramento Bee, March 28, 2004
“Amusing, sly new illustrations enliven this reprint of a 1978 title. When a little girl’s father announces that he and the child’s mother are going out for the evening, the girl uses a variety of strategies to dissuade her parents. She offers to go with them, packing her essentials, including ballet shoes and monster book. She threatens dire calamities in their absence-storms, illness, and even a random moose attack. Then hip, easy-going babysitter Sarah arrives, and the child ends up having a lovely evening, sprinkling pickles on her pizza and applying clown makeup. In the morning, she’s delighted to find that her parents have indeed returned home, and she wakes them with kisses. Harris’ playful, rhythmic text, written in the defiant heroine’s voice, skillfully conveys a child’s attempt to mask fear and discomfort with blustering protests, and Bliss’s winning ink-and-watercolor drawings add clever humor and spot-on details from a child’s viewpoint. Many children will see themselves in the anxious girl as she tries to command her distracted parents’ attention.”
-Gillian Engberg, Booklist, March 1, 2004