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Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart Review by Lyria Moore and Donna Campos

Howard Binkow,
IllustratorIllustrated by Susan F. Cornelison
We Do Listen Foundation
4314 Marina City Drive #320
Marina del Rey, CA 90292

If your child needs a confidence booster outside of his identity in Christ, then pick up this book. Howard Wigglebottom tackles the problem of low self-esteem the way many children's books handle it. Howard is happiest when he is dancing. Some children see him and make fun of him. Now he's ashamed to do the thing that brings him the most joy. He falls into a depressed state as he tries doing other things to fit in. Finally, he talks to a family member who gives him the history behind his love for dance. Now Howard has a new reason to dance and isn't fazed one bit by what the other children might say. He's found confidence in himself.

While this sounds like a wonderful story, I really don't like the message that says whatever you want to do you should do. The world tells us that over and over, and it contradicts the teaching of the Bible. We should be giving ourselves over to God's leading and live according to His ways. When we know who we are in Christ, then we will have confidence in what HE does through us. We won't be tempted to have proud, haughty attitudes of what we can do all by ourselves.

Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart seems to have an innocent enough message, but it sounds too much like the trend and culture of this world. I want my children to thank God for their gifts and talents so they can use them for His glory.

Product review by Lyria Moore, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2009

The hardcover book Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart is the second book in the “Listening Series” from the We Do Listen Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to help children improve their listening skills and feel good about themselves. Written for children from four to eight years old, it is 32 pages long and is a comfortable 10 x 8 inch hardcover easily handled by young hands. Full color book jacket is included, with identical full color book cover protected beneath. Interior pages vary in format with words on pages opposing full page illustrations, as well as words within the illustrations, and accent illustrations on word pages. Two pages at the back of the book include “Suggestions for Lessons and Reflection” presented in five numbered sections. The story Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart tells of an adorable dancing bunny rabbit who allows peer pressure to keep him from dancing. After attempting other ways to be accepted and become popular, with loving advice from his Grandpa Sammy, he works to improve his dancing and becomes the hit of the school dance. The story has an endearing presentation of the often difficult times for children seeking acceptance by friends and includes the character learning that he enjoys a talent long held by members of his family. The suggestions at the end of the book offer parents and children encouragement for building self-esteem and pride in every child for being exactly who they are. Written for children from ages four to eight, it is very adaptable for all age groups who enjoy full color books and older children reading independently.
This is an enjoyable book.  The full color illustrations are creative and vivid in presentation, while the writing is heartfelt as the story naturally flows from page to page. Our family enjoyed it for the sake of a good book and sweet story, and the pictures thrilled my son as we giggled together about Howard’s little “wiggle bottom” and his dancing. I loved the use of a grandparent in encouraging growth in Howard, as it fills a need for many single parent families as grandparents are helping so often. The only other family member referenced in the story is a sister, but the story simply doesn’t reference a mother or father, making the book relevant to single parent families as well. This is the second in the series, so I am unsure whether more family history is revealed in the first book. The helpful support material in the back of the book encourages children to talk to parents and other trusted adults when they need assistance. The subject of race is addressed, and the existence of many races is commented on, so if your family is teaching a one race mindset, keep this in mind. The intention of the race comment is to stress uniqueness while still being within smaller and smaller groups, down to our immediate families. Family support is stressed, as is family history and the reader learning more about his or her own family history. The support material may be read aloud to children or used for discussion as parents elaborate on the story with their children. Acceptance is encouraged when finding likes and dislikes among friends, the difference between “thinking” and “feeling” is also approached, as well as family legacy. The entire book has no reference to God or any quoted biblical base for the teachings, although most seem generally based in an agreeable format for Christians. We enjoyed the book, but prefer books that include reference to our creator God and His view of our unique creation in His likeness. It is difficult to read a book, as a Christian family, that includes no reference to God when discussing how special our children are and the gifts and talents God has given them.

Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart is an adorable book filled with color, a wonderful story, and valuable lessons for every child. The lack of direct Godly material and references reduced the value in our home, but we have no difficulty using it with the additional discussion of God’s wonderful creation of each of our children. God intends for our children to discover their gifts and be an active part in the world He has placed them in, and this book opens wonderful discussion for children to offer the best of themselves in many situations. Talk of peer pressure, self improvement, and family support are included in a story beautifully written to encourage children to trust their hearts. I especially appreciated at the beginning of the story when Howard was not necessarily good at what he enjoyed, it took practice and skills taught by his grandfather, to improve what was a family talent. It is important for us to stress that a sinful nature should not be trusted, and so our use of the book includes pertinent instruction in that area as discussion allowed. Careful use should also be noted for families teaching one race, as different wording about ethnicity and the unique physical characteristics God bestows on each individual, as well as groups, should be considered. Overall, we enjoyed Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart and will keep it in our family library. This book will make an encouraging gift to single parent families or those with active grandparent relationships, as the lack of direct parental reference offers flexibility for different family types. For those in search of a book encouraging children to find and strengthen their own talents, while supporting a positive view of family history, this book will be very enjoyable and a wonderful addition to the family library.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2008