It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday! My pick for today is The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie by Chris Van Allsburg.
This book has garnered reviews that swing like a pendulum! Some hate it while others love it. There’s only one way to find out how it makes you feel, read it.
Written & Illustrated by: Chris Van Allsburg
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2014)
Suitable for ages: 5-8 (according the publisher)
Themes/Topics: pet responsibility & ownership, animal adoption & care, abandonment, longing, courage
Brief Synopsis: Sweetie Pie is a hamster adopted from a pet store who ends up in the care of multiple children who are either not ready for pet ownership or who are just neglectful. Sweetie Pie goes through a few owners, one who leaves him outside stuck in a plastic hamster ball, another who leaves him out in the snow. In the end Sweetie Pie escapes and joins a family of squirrels, finding solitude in the outdoors.
Opening pages: “He’s sooo cute!” squealed the pigtailed girl. The hamster had heard these words before. He’d once shared his home with a dozen friends. One by one, they’d all been taken away.
He’d been left behind because whenever a child had picked him up, he’s squirmed and scratched.”
Why I like this book: Sweetie pie is not the best pet. Why? Is his behavior innate? Is it possible his environments affected him? Readers have some pretty strong opinions about this book! I see it as an example of a picture book appropriate for older audiences. Firstly, the text is far lengthier than many of the newer 500-700 word picture books; secondly there are many social factors that can be discussed using Sweetie’s Pie’s situation, his desires, and the behavior of the children and adults that are supposed to care for him. It’s not a funny story, but rather poignant. A good read for anyone studying animal care or for parents or teachers who are considering getting a pet for the home or classroom. I would recommend parents and or teachers read it first because it does stir many different emotions, some which are just not pleasant but totally authentic. So where some see it as not a great book coming from what they expect from the well-known author, I feel it’s that this book isn’t funny or witty or clever. Some books are good because they stir up strong emotions and opinions.
For more book reviews, go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.