No, I’m really not running away today or any other day, but all of today’s RAT books have running away as a theme. While I think that’s an absolutely dreadful to think about a child doing (and it is!), thankfully the redeeming qualities of today’s stories lead to very satisfying and affirming resolutions. Because of the sheer absurdity of the situations and the young ages of the children (or animals) involved, these books work for me. (I say all of that as a disclaimer because I think I’ve read somewhere a criticism of such books. I’m not all that sensitive or PC, but your mileage may vary. 🙂 )
I wasn’t sure I was going to like Petunia Goes Wild by Paul Schmid one little bit when I first started reading it. Petunia is a little girl who, in the first four spreads of the story, eats her breakast off the floor, roars at anyone who walks by, bathes in a mud puddle (while “wearing no more than a smile”), and tells her parents she wants to live in a cave. In fact, she decides that she should’ve been born an animal because humans are just “too clean. Too careful. Too clothed. Too combed. Too quiet. Too. . . hafta.” In a fit of childish practicality, Petunia decides that she will mail herself to Africa when her parents deny her request that she become their pet. All’s well in the end, though, because once she’s inside the box, Petunia realizes everything she’ll miss. Thematically this book reminds me a bit of the Frances books, although Petunia Goes Wild isn’t as complex or nuanced, probably because the tale is told entirely from Petunia’s perspective. Still, the story is charming, and the deceptively simple drawings (Petunia sports a safety-pinned on tail in many of them) add to the appeal. I’d like to read the other Petunia book and everything else Paul Schmid has written. Highly Recommended. (Harper, 2012)
While it took me a while to warm up to Petunia, I liked Eve Bunting’s Pirate Boy from the start. It’s the story of a little boy named Danny and his mom who are reading a book entitled Pirate Boy together. At the end of the story, Danny asks the question, “Mom? What if I want to be a pirate and sail away on a pirate ship?” What follows then is an elaborate rescue plan if Danny decides he doesn’t like being a pirate: mom will find a “friendly dolphin” to take her to the ship and bring him back home; if she encounters gigantic sea monsters that want to eat her up, she will simply spray them with her magic spray and shrink them down to goldfish size; mean pirates who won’t let Danny go will get the same treatment; etc. The story ends happily with the Mom, Dad, and Danny playing on Summer Beach, with the pirates back aboard their ships and normal size thanks to the magic spray Mom leaves them. This is just a sweet, sweet story that Louise really likes. Julie Fortenberry’s digital paintings are warm and humorous. If you can willfully suspend your disbelief that pirates are appropriate topics for children’s picture books, I think you’ll like this one. 😉 Highly Recommended. (Holiday House, 2011)
Of course, reading Pirate Boy I couldn’t help but think of The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. This is an old standby that is hiding among all of our other board books. I think I need to pull it out and revisit it with the DLM. Can you think of any more “I’m running away today” picture books?