Children’s Book of the Week: A Pet for Petunia

August 24, 2011

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.”

(10)

10 Responses to “Children’s Book of the Week: A Pet for Petunia”

  1. Paul Schmid says:

    Hi Julie, so glad you enjoyed Petunia and thanks for such a wonderful review! Watch for Petunia Goes Wild in January.

  2. Julie says:

    Oh my goodness, we LOVE this book. Really. I can’t stop reading it. I bow down at the altar of Petunia!

  3. OK–Full disclosure: I’m the editor of this amazing book and I bow down at the altar of Paul Schmid.

    And as for “lunkheads” it’s just one of the words you dream about being able to include in a pictue book. Stay tuned: When PETUNIA GOES WILD in January MARIA WILL GO WILD as well.

    It’s just so great that you read to your kids. It’s the best gift you can give them. Maria

  4. Julie says:

    I didn’t even know I dreamed about “lunkheads” being in a picture book until, well, there it was, and it was hard for me to get the line out because it was so silly and awesome all at once (“awesome” — now I sound like Petunia).

    I really wish both of you could have been flies on the wall when I was reading it aloud for the first time. I think my dream in life is pretty much to write a children’s book that makes kids laugh in that full-on, uncontrollable, giggly laugh that my kids had when I was reading “A Pet for Petunia.” Such an amazing thing: Paul Schmid wrote these words, Maria Modugno edited them, they were printed on paper, and somehow they made four random kids and a grownup in Maine laugh out loud. Magic!

  5. Robyn says:

    Lunkheads…precisely how I felt at five. I can still feel the handle of my grandmother’s white suitcase in my hand as I walked out the door (I made it 5 blocks).

    Petunia’s on the list. I love having my own personal book reviewer!

  6. Paul Schmid says:

    Robyn, and that is exactly what I meant when I wrote those words. From a kids perspective, parents can be clueless, myopic, frustrating boobies. A child’s reasoning floats within the shallow orbit of their own passions, and we parents frequently Just Don’t Get It. (For we have our own shallow orbit of passions.)
    Hope you enjoy the book!
    Paul

  7. Julie says:

    Paul, please tell me there’s a line in Petunia Goes Wild where she calls her parents “clueless, myopic, frustrating boobies.”

    It’s a bit disconcerting to be on the other side of the equation now, to be the lunkhead/boobie. Because I pretend I’m not, but I am, so much.

  8. Julie says:

    Ha! And so, to illustrate my point, five seconds after posting that comment, I snipped at Zuzu for wanting to open both of her new toothbrushes at once. “No. We must wait for one of them to be worn out before we open the other one. Otherwise the second one will get all dirty before we need it.” And she stomped away. What I said was really just the unfunny version of “Skunks stink.”

  9. Paul Schmid says:

    The problem with being a parent is that we have to be the parent.

  10. Julie says:

    I know! I’ve been a parent for 8 years, and it’s still a little alarming to me when I hear what’s coming out of my mouth.

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