Committee for Children Blog

Book Review: Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen and Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart


by Howard Binkow
Reading level: Preschool–Grade 2

Howard B. Wigglebottom is aptly named, in more ways than one. Not only is he too wiggly to listen to friends and teachers, he is also an awesome dancer. Over the course of two picture books by Howard Binkow, readers learn how this spirited bunny learns to be a good listener and to follow his heart and be proud of who he is.

In Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen, the young rabbit is constantly in trouble, all because he doesn’t listen. He bounces; he ignores warnings and good advice; he is disrespectful to a friend. When he finally pauses for a moment (during a time-out in school), he realizes he does not like being alone and in trouble. He decides to work on becoming “the best listener he can be.” With great concentration and focus, Howard succeeds, and is rewarded with a #1 Listener star, more time to play, and greater peace of mind.

Now it’s time for Howard to listen to his heart. In Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart, our hero loses confidence in the one thing that has always made him happy: dance. When other kids make fun of his exuberant boogying one day, Howard stops cold. In frenetic and misguided attempts to figure out what will make others like him, he tries out singing, basketball, art, and speed-hopping, none of which are near or dear to his heart. Luckily, Howard’s beloved grandfather has a wise suggestion: “Try doing things just for the fun of it, for what you’ll learn, and for the friends you’ll meet along the way. It’s not about winning or being liked. Listen to your heart. Do things that make you feel good, no matter what your friends say.” Howard returns to his first love, dancing, and discovers that he is proudest and his friends appreciate him most when he is “who he was born to be—a Wigglebottom through and through.”

Social and Emotional Lessons in the Howard B. Wigglebottom Books

Each book concludes with two pages of lessons and reflections, including many questions for readers. Children in preschool through grade 2 especially will benefit from the fairly simple—yet not always easy—lessons offered in this pair of stories. Step 2 in “How to Be a Better Listener,” for example, is particularly germane and graspable to kids of this age: “Use both your eyes and your ears to help you listen.”

Although the nature of a short picture book limits elaborate plot development—in both stories Howard makes up his mind to change and immediately turns a corner in behavior and attitude—the supporting material at the back of the book goes a long way toward filling in the gaps. Armed with information and suggestions about listening better to others and oneself, educators and parents can guide their young charges within a larger context of social and emotional learning.

After a seven-point list titled “How to Be a Better Listener,” the questions in Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen are directed and specific. Conveniently, each question is linked to the related page number, such as:

Page 13

  • Is Howard doing his best to listen and understand his friend?
  • How do you think Howard’s friend feels because she can’t finish what she wants to say?

The end pages of Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart use a slightly different, more open style, breaking down the discussion into five sections: The Heart; Confiding in an Older Person; Self-Esteem, Inclusion, and Acceptance; Trying Different Things for the Fun of It; and Connecting to Your Roots and Family Legacy. Each section includes questions, comments, and definitions, all of which can be taken in any number of directions by a group:

“Howard got cheers and compliments for finding what he loved to do and for trying his hardest. Sometimes you will get cheers and sometimes you won’t. It doesn’t matter whether you get cheers or not. What’s important is that you do those things you believe in and that make you feel good.”

These are the kinds of concepts that children will need to be reminded of again and again as they work on becoming the best selves they can be. Howard is a character any child can relate to. Adult readers will find themselves referring back to him regularly in the course of a day: “Sam, remember what Howard B. Wigglebottom learned about paying attention!”

Buy now! Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen

Buy now! Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart