Your Birthday Was the Best! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

When I was in college, I lived in the second floor apartment of an old wooden house at the edge of the University of Arizona campus in Tucson. Cockroaches were ubiquitous. As I spent a lot of time chasing them into the cracks of the woodwork, it wasn’t surprising that I developed asthma. When our neighbors sprayed huge amounts of roach killer on the first floor and under the wooden porch, you would have thought that I would have been grateful. Well, I was (mostly), but cockroach carcasses continued to afflict my airways. I developed pneumonia, and when I graduated, I couldn’t wait to move. (The place also had wolf spiders, but at least I wasn’t allergic to them.)

That said, I think this book, starring and narrated by a party-loving cockroach, is hilarious. In fact, it made me, my 19-year-old son, and husband laugh out loud at certain points, starting with the opening spread:

Cockroach watches the party where everyone’s having a good time, except for the kid who’s balling his eyes out and the big sister who looks like she’d rather be eating nails. Kids are eating, spilling food, blowing bubbles, jumping on a trampoline, etc. Even the baby sister is enjoying a worm crawling across the carpet. Over the course of the party, cockroach participates vicariously by narrating the activity and gets so tired eating castoffs that he falls asleep on the cake. When the birthday child see this, the cockroach mistakenly thinks the scream is one of excitement. Dear reader, we know otherwise.

Craziness of the best kind ensues, with unexpected, laugh out loud results. So pick this book up when you’re not eating, let the kids get grossed out, and be thankful that the cockroaches wreak havoc only in the book. (I hope.)

P.S. Sometimes a book can just be fun, because laughter is IMPORTANT. It releases strong well-being hormones. It makes us feel less stressed. It heals, and it creates bonds between those sharing the laughter. If you want to give this book a “takeaway,” perhaps it can be about how to avoid creating an environment that invites cockroaches. But I think laughter is pretty magnificent on its own.


Pair this book with Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watt.

Make an origami cockroach

Learn more about cockroaches here.

Title: Your Birthday Was the Best!

Author: Maggie Hutchings

Illustrator: Felicita Sala

Publisher: Tundra, 2022

Ages: Pre-K through elementary school

Themes: birthday parties, cockroaches

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

12 thoughts on “Your Birthday Was the Best! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Marsha says:

    This sounds fabulous. In the eighties when we went to college in Colorado Springs, we lived for a short time in a complex we dubbed, “Roach Country Estates” because of the prolific cockroaches that lived there with us. Our apartment next to the laundry was rife with them. Monthly spraying didn’t harm them at all.

    My dad came for Christmas and wanted toast for breakfast one day. We fished the toaster out of the top cabinet shelf, and when we turned it on, the roaches poured out like a water fountain. My dad grabbed the toaster and threw it out the sliding door into a pile of snow. That ruined that batch. Unfortunately, we had a six-month lease, but at the end of it, we exited as fast as those roaches from a burning toaster.

    The joys of being a poor college student! Even my dad felt sorry for us.

  2. Mrs. P says:

    Great review/promotion! One of the most enjoyable times I had as a teacher was during reading time. We had a very strong reading program that included reading 120-400 “pleasure readers”. Books that are found in the library or bookstore that aligned with the vocabulary of the graded reader they were on.

    It was during this reading time where I got to observe children laughing and sometimes being sad over a story they read. The best part was the discussions they would have about a particular book…why another student should read it. But the one thing that was always an instant hit was the laugh out loud type…where the whole class would turn to see what book caused that reaction.

    Three cheers to all the authors…especially the ones that make us laugh!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      I agree! Humor is one of the best ways to lure kids into reading. Your reading program sounded exactly like what kids need to build up their reading muscles. Do you follow Colby Sharp’s blog or Youtube channel? His Nerdy Book Club with Donalyn Miller is fantastic. His classroom is filled with books, and he is so passionate about enticing his students to read.

      • Mrs. P says:

        I’ve really been out of the loop over the past 15 years since retiring. My life back then was spent on the floor in libraries and bookstores…searching for more books to add to my bookshelf. Not only did I find the books, I had to place them on the appropriate level based on introduction to new vocabulary. All in all I placed over a thousand books for the 2nd and 3rd grades.

        Each grade gad three to five graded readers plus 120-400 pleasure readers at each level…three levels per grade. At least 350 pleasure readers per grade. Most did well over that.

        I enjoyed doing that but no longer have the interest or drive to take on this type of work.

        • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

          That’s a lot of work! I can see how leveling them would become quite tiring. Thankfully, there are teachers/authors out there who are now running with the torch, firing up other teachers and readers, people like Colby Sharp, Mr. Schu, and Melissa Stewart.

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