A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid
Warning: do not read your children A Pet for Petunia if they are eating. I made that mistake, and by the end of the book, there were tiny chewed-up bits of yellow pepper all over my dining room table, because of the uncontrollable laughing. Seriously, there’s pretty much a guffaw-worthy line on every page.
Ok, yeah, so I’ll admit that part of the reason I like this book is that it’s one of those, like, say, A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea, that’s written the way I talk, so I’m able to nail the timing on the first reading, which makes the kids laugh out their yellow peppers and makes me feel like Rockstar Story Time Mommy.
I’m a little tempted not to tell you anything more about this book (you’d trust me, right? you’d get it out anyway?) because I don’t want to ruin any of the fun and spoil the joy of discovery for you. But yeah, sure, I’ll tell you some more. Petunia really wants a pet skunk. Begs her parents for a pet skunk. They say no.
Ok, and I’ll also tell you that Petunia throws a fabulous, world-class tantrum because she’s all offended when her parents tell her skunks stink (“They don’t STINK! They’re CUTE!…I’ll tell you what stinks! THIS stinks!”).
One of the brilliant things about this book is how it’s almost entirely from Petunia’s perspective (though told in the third person), and there’s no explanatory backstory except for telling us that Petunia loves skunks. Kids are left to piece together all the bits of what exactly is happening with Petunia, and the laughs are bigger for them because nothing is dumbed down (I am all about books that treat kids like intelligent human beings).
Just go get it. It’s super. Also it has an endorsement from Maurice Sendak on the cover. How do you even get that on your book? I mean, it’s one thing for me to endorse a book, but Maurice Sendak? Really, do you need to know any more?
Just one more thing. This book contains what has got to be my favorite sentence in children’s picture book literature of 2011: “With such disappointing lunkheads for parents, naturally Petunia must leave home.”