The Creature of Habit
Written by Jennifer E. Smith
Illustrated by Leo Espinosa
40 pages • Published 2021 (Random House Studio)
Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Publisher's Summary: A very big creature with big teeth, big eyes, and very big feet lives on the island of Habit. Every day the creature happily does the exact same things in the exact same order. That is, until a small boat carrying a very small creature with small teeth, small eyes, and very, very small feet arrives on the island. The big creature is excited to share his routine, but the small creature has ideas of his own. The little creature does something different every day–it’s madness to the big creature! Can these two creatures learn to understand each other? Is the island big enough for both of them? Colorful and captivating, this is a story about learning with and from your friends.
Dr. Annie's Takeaways
Recommended for: This story is applicable to a child who gets anxious when they aren’t able to follow a routine, whether in the context of anxiety, OCD, autism, or anything else. It’s a really fun, adorable story with a lot of heart and a very sweet ending. The ultimate message is that although it can be scary to break out of a routine, sometimes doing things differently can present new possibilities (like discovering a new favorite food, fun experience, or good friend).
Would a child like it? Many children would enjoy this story, especially those who tend to be creatures of habit. The character development is great, and the story is just so fun and sweet.
Evidence-Based Practices: Exposure
Tone: Cute, quirky, sweet
Story Quality: I really enjoyed this story about the possibilities that exist when one breaks out of a routine and tries something new. The very big creature (the Creature of Habit) and the very small creature who comes to visit the island of Habit are both adorable, and the ending is genuinely touching (the very big creature stays up past his bedtime with the very small creature and sees a beautiful sunset for the first time). The story is full of fun details and empathy for the routine-inclined.
Illustrations: I love the illustrations. They have a mixed media look to them (perhaps paint and digital?), and they’re really fun and colorful with some great use of pattern. The creatures are very charming and not-at-all scary.
Representation: Both creatures use he/him pronouns, but they aren’t otherwise gendered. The story takes place on a tropical island called Habit.
Psychological Practices: This story empathizes with a child who loves their routine and/or feels bound to it, and it gently shows the possibilities of breaking out of a routine. The very big creature (the Creature of Habit) expresses a fear that if he doesn’t follow his routine, “anything could happen.” When the very small creature visits the island and doesn’t follow a routine at all, the very big creature is eventually inspired to try some new things (e.g., eating a new food, staying up past his bedtime to watch the sunset), and he realizes that good things can happen if he breaks out of his routine.
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