CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 28. . . .March 22, 2013
Petunia Peachim’s Predicament.
Marilyn Wagman. Illustrated by Robyn Gram.
Thornhill, ON: Teapot Publications, 2012.
32 pp., pbk., $15.00.
Books and reading-Fiction.
Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10.
Review by Claire Perrin.
Petunia Peachim is a librarian who loves books so much that she doesn’t want children to borrow them. Instead of signing books out, Petunia encourages children to read their books in the library. Eventually the children stop coming to the library except for persistent Percival Parker who loves books just as much as Mrs. Peachim. Percival eventually convinces Petunia to let others borrow books as long as they follow some simple rules. Once again Petunia’s library is full of eager children wanting to borrow a book.
Percival Parker picked out a book about penguins and excitedly waited to sign it out. Petunia Peachim tried. She really, really tried! She knew what a librarian was supposed to do. Petunia went to the computer and put her hand on the scanner, but her hand quivered so terribly, she just couldn’t scan the book out.
“I’m truly sorry Percival,” cried Petunia. “This book doesn’t seem to want to leave me today.” Poor Percival left the library with a forlorn look on his face, as he gazed longingly at the book he had to leave behind.
First time author Marilyn Wagman is, herself, a teacher-librarian who shares Petunia’s particular love of good books. The book has a clear story line as well as a main idea that is easy to identify. However, the story line is missing those key elements that young readers look for when choosing a book: humour, adventure, exciting characters, to name a few. The setting and characters are completely realistic and do not engage the imagination of readers. Although Petunia seems to have a quirky side, it is not explored by the author. Percival is also one-dimensional and predicable.
Another issue with this book is its use of language. What starts out to be a clever use of alliteration loses its effect when used in excess. Sentences such as “It’s a positively perfect, particularly fabulous book” are wordy and unnatural. The book’s presentation is problematic in several regards. Much of the empty space in the illustrations is either full of text or lacks background details. Some pages have up to thirteen sentences of text which is substantially more than average for picture books. The story could have easily been pared down without sacrificing the main idea.
Robyn Gram’s illustrations are colourful and show children of many different skin colours, which is representative of many school populations. However, the characters are usually drawn from the same perspective and are repeatedly shown in the same positions. There is very little movement or variety in the character’s body positions or facial expressions.
Wagman is to be commended for trying to share her love of reading with others. Petunia Peachim’s Predicament certainly has educational value and deserves a spot in every school library where it can be used by teachers or librarians for a read-aloud. It is not likely, however, to be the type of book that children borrow for their personal reading.
Recommended with reservations.
Claire Perrin is an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board in ON.
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