My Pet Book
Andersen Press pbk
Imagine having a book as a pet – not possible? Well then you need to get hold of
Staake’s wonderfully crazy tribute to books and young bibliophiles.
The young boy protagonist in this story wants a pet, but not one like a dog or cat; he doesn’t care for the former, the latter make him sneezy (me too).
“A book would make the perfect pet!” his mother advises so off he goes to the Smartytown local bookshop where he discovers just the thing: a small ‘frisky red hardcover!’
Oh joy! It never makes any demands on our hero – no eating, drinking, pooping (naturally) no fleas, no bathing, easy to take walking,
doesn’t make a sound and best of all it’s full of wonderful tales to inhabit. The two are practically inseparable.
But then oh woe! The boy comes back from school one day to discover the book has gone – given to a charity shop by the well-meaning maid. Off dash maid and boy hoping to retrieve the book but, where is it? Certainly not where it should have been – on the bookshelves, or even with the coats, lamps or bears. Tears ensue but then the maid has a brainwave: the hiding place is discovered,
the book retrieved (none the worse for its experience) and, boy and book reunited, back home they all go.
Bonkers? Yes assuredly, but Staake so cleverly demonstrates in his crazy rhyming caper with those mega-bright, digitally manipulated illustrations packed with daft details and ebullient extras, what Clyde Watson’s poem ‘A book is a place’ says ‘Just open a book and step in.’ With this one, you’ll be glad you did.
This story concerns abandonment or rather, a boy’s attempts at same.
The young boy narrator introduces his pet rabbit, Floppy and then proceeds to explain why he can no longer keep him as a best friend “I’m not a baby.” he tells us. “So I had to let him go.” Has he been reading Hansel and Gretel one wonders as we hear of his intentions “to take him far enough into the woods that he couldn’t find his way back all alone.”
Floppy however, is his usual procrastinatory self and progress is very slow. Eventually, deep in the forest, the boy finds a tree in a clearing and it’s there that a now somewhat reluctant parting takes place; but that’s only after some determined action on the boy’s part:
He ties his rabbit to a tree with a length of unravelled sweater wool
and beats a hasty retreat.
Before long though, struck by anxiety and remorse, back goes the narrator only to discover nothing but a length of wool tied around the tree. Tension mounts as he dashes through the forest sending crows flying as he follows a trail that leads him …
… eventually to a small cabin.
Therein – joy of joys – he discovers his beloved pet ably cared for by a little girl. (The same girl he’d spied earlier during his losing Floppy attempts.)
Reunited, somewhat shamed, and with some new knowledge, boy and bunny take the route back home – together.
Poignant and perverse, thought provoking and infused with a playful humour, this longish narrative might alarm some pet lovers but only if they misunderstand the tale as a whole.
(The five to sevens I’ve shared it with certainly have enthused about it.) Chaud’s warmth and mischievousness permeate his gorgeous illustrations, perfectly illuminating the boy’s changing feelings; Floppy though appears totally unmoved by the entire adventure.
Use your local bookshop l