a list of…five particularly pleasant stories about people in a pickle!

I Don’t Want to Be a Pea! written by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Simon Rickerty

Hugo Hippo and Bella Bird are best friends.  Just now, however, they find themselves in a bit of a predicament!  They’re all set to attend the Fairy-Tale Fancy Dress Party tonight–ooh la la! — but they just can’t seem to agree on a costume.  Oh, dear!

Hippo has a splendid idea.  They will go as the Princess and the Pea.  A lovely crown, bubble-gum pink high heels, a wink of a wig, and a smear of lipstick and Hippo turns into a princess.  Meanwhile, Hugo decides,  Bird can wear a darling, round, very-pea-green, pea costume.  Perfect ! “But I don’t want to be a pea,” exclaims Bird.  “It is too green and small.”  Bird has a completely Other vision…

I won’t spoil the book for you.  It is a total riot to see what these two come up with, how smashing each one looks and how frumpy the other looks, depending on who’s choosing the costumes.  Things come to a fuming, stomping turn before they realize how indispendible their friendship is, and come up with the cleverest of all costumes!

I laughed out loud reading this book.  Each turn of the page brings a fresh smile, a vivid, emotional change-of-tune, until the final, cheerful resolution.  The hmph-ing and harumph-ing between two dear friends is something even very young children can relate to, and the clever compromise is very satisfying.  Simon Rickerty’s digital illustrations are hilarious.  Simple, line drawings exaggerate these two characters, a couple of teeny dots for eyes and the smallest zig or zag for a mouth or an eyebrow convey fantastic emotion, and all is awash in superb, boisterous color — butter yellow, shocking pink, sky blue and that cranky pea green scream from the pages.  An utter delight for preschoolers and up!

Trouble Gum, written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

The Figgs, are pigs.

Little Ruben Figg is having a dull day.  Grammy and Mom are having tea and knitting.  It’s raining.  Blah.  What’s a pig to do?  Mom suggests he play with little brother, Julius.  This works…sort of.   Ruben thinks of all sorts of grand, adventurous make-believes to play with Julius.  However, these games tend to be Extremely Loud and Mom keeps hollering for the boys to quiet down.

Finally, Grammy comes up with a solution.  Bubble gum!  Hmm…Mom doesn’t normally allow gum because in Ruben’s hands…er… mouth…gum tends to be Extremely Messy.  However, Grammy wins the day, Mom recites the riot act to the boys, and off they troop with their gum.

Well.  Do you have Any Idea how much trouble bubble gum can be?!?!  In Ruben’s case:  A LOT!  Somehow, Ruben is simply a magnet for trouble, and when gum is added to the mix — that trouble just gets louder and messier and more out of control until vast quantities of loud, sticky, pink mess completely take over!

This is another very funny book which gave me the giggles.  It is so true to life, and so far-fetched at the same time; both mothers and young hoodlums will see themselves in the tale.  Cordell has illustrated it in brilliant, sketchy ink drawings and just a bit of wash, punctuated with zippy heroic-red details that add hilarious intensity.  Most of the drawings are small, sprinkled into a great deal of white space, which adds a wry, understated humor to the whole thing.  Preschoolers and up will adore Ruben and his wad of gum!

Z is for Moose, by Kelly Bingham, pictures by Paul O. Zelinsky

Iiiiiiit’s showtime!  An alphabet production!  Zebra is in charge.  His dashing stripes coordinate fabulously with the black-and-white referee shirt he’s sporting, along with his Take Charge Clipboard and whistle.

Everyone is lined up, ready to take the stage one at a time, in proper, alphabetical order, beginning with a beautiful, red apple.  Aaand we’re on!  Up the stairs marches Apple.  Right to center stage for her big moment.  “A is for Apple.”  Zebra looks approvingly on from the wings.  Next — Ball.  Beautiful, striped Ball.  Well done.  And then comes Cat.  “C is for Cat.”  Things are going swimmingly.

Until…Moose gets a bit over-eager and barges in where he doesn’t belong.  Soon, the entire production is in a ruckus!  Mayhem, catastrophe, and moose antlers everywhere!  Can Zebra straighten this mess out?!  And just how does Z stand for Moose?!

This marks the third book in a row where I must admit — I laughed out loud!  So, so funny!  The concept is genius, and the illustrations take the cake!  Lusciously-large stage views of all the familiar A-B-C characters… colliding with a moose.  A moose is just, intrinsically, funny I think.  His bulging nose and cumbersome set of antlers are just the ticket for klutzy encounters.  Zelinsky has created tickle-your-funny-bones scenes, packing oodles of commotion and emotion into them.  You will fall in love with Moose, and be ever-so-grateful to Zebra for coming up with such a comforting solution to this grand dilemma!  Brand new this year, and highly recommended to all who know their A-B-Cs!

Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint, written and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

Sarah and Simon are children of an artist.  A painter.  He does a lovely job, but as it’s a bit hard for an artist to make a living, even when you paint lovely pictures, the family is rather poor.  Plus, since he disappointed his Rich Uncle by becoming an artist rather than a businessman, there’s no money from that hand to be had.  However, presently he is at work painting his Masterpiece.  This, he assures his dear family, is the ticket to fame and riches.

Sarah and Simon, meanwhile, are industrious children, helping their family in any way they can.  They keep quite busy tackling chores, running errands, sitting for their father, and in spare moments, visiting their favorite shop — a second-hand bookshop.  (Ah…children after my own heart!) The owner of the bookshop is an old dear, even hanging their father’s paintings in his shop in order to sell them.

A final blow comes, however, when the masterpiece is all but finished.  One little tube of red paint is all that’s needed to finish ‘er up, but alas! there’s not a shilling left, and the cranky shopkeeper at the art store refuses to give it to them on credit.  What’s to be done?!  The solution involves Sarah and Simon, the beloved bookshop, and a mysterious well-wisher…but you’ll have to read the book to discover it!

If you follow Orange Marmalade, you know that Edward Ardizzone is one of my very favorite children’s author/illustrators.  This book was originally published in 1965, sadly went out of print, but has just now been republished by David R. Godine.  Thank goodness for a smart bookshop owner who begged them to take a look at it!  The plot is fabulous, the story details charming, and the illustrations are by Ardizzone — no need to say more!  He is perfect.  This is a fantastic read for kindergarten and up.

No Dogs Allowed, a nearly-wordless book by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Kristin Sorra

Alberto runs a classy restaurant, with trendy patio seating across from the splendid, splashing, public fountain.  So, when he sees a small red-haired boy approaching with a large-and-shaggy dog, Alberto quickly revises his chalkboard “Welcome!” sign to read:  No Dogs Allowed.  Problem solved…

…until a chic young miss strolls up with her regal, gray cat.  Quickly, Alberto gets out the eraser and chalk and makes another slight change:  “No Dogs or Cats Allowed.”  I mean, really.

As the day wears on, Alberto’s place is deluged with folks who want to dine with their pets, and Alberto’s chalk is put to use time and time again as he defines just who is actually welcome at his establishment.  Sadly, as all of his would-be patrons wander over to a jolly lemonade stand nearby, Alberto becomes quite alone…and completely dejected. When the stand runs out of lemons, though, that little red-haired boy and his dog come up with a dandy solution that puts a smile on Alberto’s face, and everyone else’s!

This friendly story is wonderfully illustrated by Kristin Sorra with digital artwork that very clearly tells the story.  The quiet beginning view contrasts with scenes increasingly crowded with folks and critters; the orderly-but-lonely Alberto stands in contrast to the chaotic, colorful community just out of his reach, until…a happy coming together in the end.  The cherry on top is the use of signs and conversation bubbles here there and everywhere.  The only words in the book appear in these two places.  And beginning readers love to read signs and conversation bubbles!  A very neat twist on Alberto’s restaurant name at the end is especially clever.  Just right for preschoolers and up.

Here are Amazon links for all these brilliantly bothersome books!
I Don’t Want to Be a Pea!

Trouble Gum

Z Is for Moose

Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint

No Dogs Allowed!