Written and art by Frank Viva. Published by TOON Books.
Kids always need to use the toilet at the most inconvenient time. You’ll be somewhere out of the house – such as in the car or the supermarket – when a kid will reveal they’re busting to pee. They could’ve gone before they left the house, but told you they didn’t need to go. It’s an all too familiar scenario for parents of young children and those who’ve spent enough time with them, making Frank Viva’s Gotta Go! a relatable read for many. However, instead of reflecting on the frustration, this graphic novel for young readers gives actionable advice.
The book focuses on a young boy named Owen, who’s off with his mother to visit his grandpa. On the way, he soon realises that he needs to pee. Perhaps he should’ve listened to his mum when she told him to go before they left the house. Luckily, he made it to Grandpa’s bathroom in time, but it was a close call. To help him, Grandpa offers Owen advice to calm the urge to pee through silly dances such as the Tinkle Twist, Wee-wee walk, Pee-pee Hop, Piddle Patter, and Leaky Shake.
The illustrations of these dances are a lot of fun. Viva draws Owen and his grandpa hopping, twisting, flailing, and twirling their bodies in all kinds of directions, all the while pulling silly faces. There’s a lot of energy to this, with Viva’s loose vector style capturing much of the energy by showing the exaggerated dance moves, complimented with wobble lines, at their various steps. Not only is it silly fun for kids, likely to elicit plenty of giggles, but it makes them more imitatable, which is Viva’s primary goal.
For most books aimed at 5-7-year-olds, a silly dance would be a silly dance. In Gotta Go!, it’s actionable advice. The graphic novel teaches young children what they can do if they find themselves busting to pee with a toilet nowhere in sight. However, Viva opts not to lecture children, instead showing what to do through Owen and his Grandpa.
While they’re not moves that will end up on TikTok or in the club, they’re the kinds of dances kids can learn in a few steps. Viva includes a handful of spreads that break down how to do them. Later dance moves are not broken down into steps, but readers should have the gist of them based on how they’re illustrated and can improvise upon them. Like Owen and his grandpa, kids and parental figures can pull these moves together to help reinforce the purpose behind them and get kids ready for real-world use.
With all the graphic novels that TOON Books publishes, Gotta Go! is tailored to the reading comprehension of a target age. In this case, it’s ages 5-7. Sentences are short and pages are not text-heavy, using sight words or ones the age group can grasp. As a result, it’s perfect for teaching kids about holding-on strategies and helps them with their reading fluency.
Kids are always going to need to use the bathroom at inconvenient times. However, Frank Viva’s Gotta Go! makes those moments easier for everyone involved by teaching kids the tools to ignore the urge through a fun package that’s easy to read.