a list of…five first-class frivolities featuring flamboyant friends

Pumpkin Soup, written and illustrated by Helen Cooper

Cat, Squirrel and Duck are three long-time friends.  They live together happily in a quirky little cottage, making music, snuggling under a cozy quilt, and concocting delicious pumpkin soup.  All goes well, as long as each one sticks to his appointed task.

But.  One day, Duck decides to Branch Out.  He is tired of his puny task in the soup-making department, scooping up a pipkin of salt and tipping in just enough.  Duck wants to be in charge of stirring!  Squirrel and Cat vigorously disagree, and after a most unhappy row, Duck departs.  For awhile, his friends are sure that he will be back shortly.  When supper-time rolls around, though, with no sign of Duck, the two at home begin to worry.  And search.  And imagine terrible things.  And regret not letting Duck help as he wished.

Finally, most happily, the three friends are reunited.  Squirrel and Cat generously put Duck in charge of stirring the soup, and…Wow!  It’s a disaster!  Duck is the most exuberant soup-stirrer you’ve ever seen; pumpkin soup everywhere!  His dear friends determine to be tolerant…until… another hare-brained idea pops into Duck’s energetic mind!

Darling story, with toasty-warm illustrations blooming here, scampering there, in many, clever sequences.

Limelight Larry, written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson

Limelight Larry is a peacock, and me-oh-my, is he ever thrilled to be the star of a book that is about him, himself, only-and-ever him!

So, Larry is understandably peeved when Mouse tiptoes into the story.  And bird.  Aaand Elephant.  And on and on it goes, with Larry’s cute, smart, funny, popular friends showing up and Taking Over His Story!  Outrageous!

Finally, Larry comes up with the only reasonable plan he can think of.  First, he delivers a short, irate, speech, and then, with a flourishing swoop, he unfolds his magnificent tail feathers!  Whoopee!  Larry has taken over center stage at last!

The problem is, it’s not so fun to show off to nobody.  Nor to be all alone in a spooky dark place.  Suddenly, those annoying friends sound pretty good to Larry.  What can he do to bring them back?

This funny, clever,  boisterous story bursts from the pages in snazzy fonts, plucky graphic design, and bracing colors fit for a peacock who loves the limelight and his marvelous, spirited, friends.  It’s a boat-load of fun to read again and again!

Frog Goes to Dinner, a wordless book by Mercer Mayer

The story opens with a young boy all spiffed up, getting ready to go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant with his family.  His great friends, Dog, Turtle, and Frog are sad to be left behind, and at the last second, Frog decides to take matters in hand, leaping unseen into the boy’s suit coat pocket.

As the family sits in great decorum at the linen-covered table, looking over the menus, listening to the music of the jazz ensemble, Frog emerges.  With one enormous leap, he flies out of the boy’s jacket pocket…and…lands in the bell of the saxophone!  Squnk!  When the saxophonist tips his instrument upside down, peering up into that bell to figure out why the sound is suddenly wonky, the frog tumbles out, Splat!, on his face!  This surprises the man so that he falls backward, crashing right through the snare drum.  While the musicians have a heated argument, Frog takes his leave, leaping this time into a fresh, leafy salad, borne on a serving tray towards an unsuspecting diner.

And so it goes.  Before you know it, the entire restaurant is in an uproar!  What will happen when the head waiter discovers the culprit?!

This hilarious, wordless book was written almost 40 years ago, and has not lost a ribbit of appeal!  My copy is completely tattered from so many, many readings.  There are a number of wordless stories about this Boy and his various pets, all worth looking for.

Madeline and the Bad Hat, story and pictures by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline and her 11 friends in the two straight lines have a new neighbor — the Spanish Ambassador has moved in, along with his young son.  Miss Clavel thinks that’s delightful!  Madeline discovers quickly, however, that this fellow, Pepito, is a bad hat!  A mischievous rascal!  An incorrigible terror!

As Miss Clavel continues to think the best, Pepito continues to use his energy for the worst, until one day, his escapades land him in bed, wrapped in bandages from head to toe!  When spunky Madeline pays him a visit, does she console him?  Oh dear, no.  She tells him he had it coming!  With that, Pepito determines to turn over a new leaf.  Zealous as he is to reform, will the new Pepito win Madeline’s friendship?

The classic Madeline stories have been animated and filmed, but you miss out if you don’t read the original books.  Featuring the irrepressible, red-haired Madeline, the stories are full of moxie, and Bemelmans’ loose, bold paintings and line drawings surge with energy.  Pepito is so scandalously bad in this third story of the series, but he meets his match with Madeline.  So satisfying!

Samantha on a Roll, by Linda Ashman, pictures by Christine Davenier

Samantha has some new roller skates and she’s desperate to try them out.  “Not today,” says Samatha’s mother.  It seems Samantha is yet too small for them, and besides, Mom doesn’t have time to help her just now.

Did you think that would stop Samantha?

Nope.

While Mother is busy with Other Things, Samantha straps herself into those glorious skates and takes a few turns about the house.  Hey!  This is easy!  Next up is trying them outside.

Samantha smoothly skates up to the tip top of Hawthorn Hill where she is just enjoying a fabulous view of the countryside when…uh oh…gravity and skates take over, and down the steep slope goes Samantha.  Whoosh!  She rockets past her house, through butterfly-chasers and ball-players, kite-flyers and, oh dear, an outdoor wedding!  Odds and ends of equipment is snagged on her as she careens along, wide-eyed!  How will this wild ride ever end?!

This hilarious, high-spirited adventure is written in clever rhyme that follows the delightful twists and turns with just the right speed.   In addition, the breezy watercolors by Davenier are a joy!  Samantha is a remarkably unfazed heroine in her jaunty lemon dress and striped leggings.  The lemon, lime and sky blue world she whirls through will surely put a smile on your face.

Here are Amazon links for these five frenetic finds:
Pumpkin Soup
Limelight Larry
Frog Goes to Dinner (Boy, Dog, Frog)
Madeline and the Bad Hat
Samantha on a Roll