Alexander’s Big Surprise
by Icey Shaikh

"Butterflies dances (sic) in his belly as he listened to his dad’s footsteps coming down the hall."

In Shaikh's picture and storybook for young children, Alexander's excitement regarding an upcoming event isn't revealed until the end of the story. The plot traces the day of his mother's return, but it is unknown where she has been or why she was gone. Instead, the story focuses on Alexander and his father's daily interaction before going to the airport to meet his mother. This element denotes a positive and close relationship with his father. His grandmother also goes along for the celebration, bringing various goodies such as flowers and red licorice. The trip culminates in a wonderful greeting, and in his excitement, Alexander learns a valuable lesson about tying his shoes. In the end, all of the participants experience a happy family reunion.

The excitement one feels in awaiting a beloved family member's arrival is one of the most beautiful aspects of the story. The artwork is exceptional. The plot is a basic one, but children will be able to feel the excitement that is brewing in Alexander while wondering who is so important to him. The focus on a happy family unit and learning about those who might be of a different race than the reader is a valuable lesson. It is a refreshing story of love and positive role models that transcends any particular ethnicity. The ending of the book is rather abrupt, and the book could benefit from some additional editing. However, the final lesson regarding the love of a mother for her child is one that all children (and adults) could benefit from learning.

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