Jamie Lee Curtis is right it is hard to be a five-year-old. I've got two such creatures in my house, and this book hits the age-five bull's-eye. Poised between babyhood and big kid-dom, five-year-olds want to be cuddled right before they rise out of your lap and announce plans for ruling, or at least bossing, the world. Curtis has written five previous books (including I'm Gonna Like Me and When I Was Little) and is shining brighter with each new entry, proving she has lots more to offer than simply a celebrity name. She has talent, insight, humor and voice.
The little-boy star of It's Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work My Control Panel is a zany fireball who proclaims the difficulties of his age: It's hard to be five/All I want is to play/I'm starting at school/and I don't get a say. He sums up the terrifying transition by saying, My whole world's going to change. Laura Cornell's illustrations bring smiles on every page. For instance, on the opening spread, our hero is plunked down on his belly reading self-help books, including Why Me? A five-year-old asks the question. And oh, that pesky, frequently malfunctioning control panel of the subtitle, the one every parent knows, which Cornell illustrates by showing that right at the center, near the heart, is a big red button marked PANIC, directly over a meter measuring Meltdown, among other amusing items.
Lest you think this book is too negative, fear not. It also celebrates being five in a big way, shouting in a two-page spread: It's fun to be five! Big changes are here! We see how much this young man can accomplish, such as building things at school, using actual manners, obeying rules and what's more, in a beautifully written verse: At five I can lie down alone in my bed/and dream of my past and my future ahead./And when I mess up or do right, it's a start./'cause I have my own mind/and I have my own heart. Curtis and Cornell have hit another home run, showing cute things without being cutesy, celebrating joys without being preachy or precious. They walk a delicate tightrope, never once slipping. Just like all those five-year-olds.