Children Make Terrible Pets
by Peter Brown
Peter Brown, who placed a green space in an unlikely spot high amid the skyscrapers in The Curious Garden, now puts an animal in the place of what humans usually do--to hilarious effect. Any child who’s begged for a dog, cat or hamster will appreciate the playful parody here. As Lucille Beatrice Bear is “practicing her twirls,” decked out in a pink tutu and a bow between her ears, she notices “the cutest critter in the WHOLE forest,” a human boy in jeans, striped tee and tennis shoes. She picks up the fellow, names him Squeaker because of the sounds he makes, and takes him home to Mom, “Can I keep him. PLEASE?” Brown depicts the pair having a high ole time: Lucille dons a kangaroo costume and tucks in Squeaker as her joey, and next tosses him berries to catch in his mouth (like an animal performing in a circus). The artist frames each illustration with a wood grain in varying shades of brown. A stellar example of this effect depicts boy and bear napping together on a tree branch that seems to grow out of the picture’s frame. But things quickly get worse, as Squeaker ruins the furniture and throws cake at the tea party. To top it all off, he disappears: Brown portrays Lucille’s face filling an entire page as she cries, “Squeaker, where are you?!” Lucille follows his scent through a mazelike spread; she suddenly looks so small. Lucille finally finds Squeaker, but realizes that his rightful place may not be with her. With humor and insight, Brown gently introduces for youngest book lovers the concepts of family, love and responsibility.