Quick Art Stop: Giselle Potter and Emily Jenkins’ Sugar

h1 June 11th, 2009 by jules

I’m doing another Quick Art Stop, this week with a few illustrations from Giselle Potter. I interviewed her almost exactly one year ago and told her, as I often tell interviewees, to stop by again any ol’ time. I recently went knockin’ on her cyber door, in fact, to see if she could share some spreads from the latest Emily Jenkins’ title she illustrated, Sugar Would Not Eat It, released by Schwartz & Wade in May.

Anyone else seen this? I love Emily’s picture books, and this new one delivers, too. This book resonates with any parent (or godparent or aunt or uncle or someone otherwise often in charge of a child) who has lectured that child about food. And it does so with humor and a wink. The book centers around a young boy’s struggle—with help from his neighbors—to get the kitten he picked up off the street (“It was small and fluffy, and had an air of confidence about it”) to eat: After Leo brings it home and names it Sugar, and despite knowing nothing about cats (much of the humor in the story can be traced back to that fact), he tries to feed it left-over birthday cake — to no avail and with the occurring refrain, often in larger, bold font: “BUT SUGAR WOULD NOT EAT IT.” His friend across the hallway, Ezra; Jimmy from the doughnut cart on the street; the elderly neighbor, Harriet; Alice from the laundromat; and many other folks give him the kind of advice that, if you’re a parent, will be quite familiar. There’s the old if-you-eat-it-it’ll-make-you-stronger tactic. The guilt trip: the I’ve-been-slaving-over-a-hot-stove zinger. The no-way-mister-are-you-leaving-the-table-until-you-eat-this technique. The classic starving-children-across-the-world bit. And the please-for-the-love-of-God-justfourbites moment of desperation.

“‘It took me two hours to bake this cake,’ Leo told Sugar, ‘and another hour to do the frosting roses. All that, and now you’re not interested? Who do you think I am, the maid?’ But Sugar would not eat it.”

Throw in some “you’re the person; she’s the cat” tips and lots of admonitions as to what will happen if Leo gives in (from “she’ll never listen” to “she’ll never learn” and a few other golden nuggets of wisdom), and you’ve got the saga of Sugar. I won’t give away the ending, except to say it’s funny (and no creatures die from lack of food), particularly the final page. I haven’t tried this on a big group of children (yet), but the final page kills with my own preschoolers (who themselves live with entirely too many cats). Guffaws all around. The whole book makes me laugh, a testament to Jenkins’ wry tone. But another reason is Giselle’s depiction of the tiny, helpless, mute Sugar. See how in these illustrations she dwarfs the kitten? And the colors! O! The bold colors. Me likey.

“‘Yum yum yum!’ coaxed Leo, dipping his finger in the frosting. ‘Oooh, delicious.’
But Sugar would not eat it
And so they sat, Sugar staring at Leo and Leo staring at Sugar, for a very long time.”

What child, who has been lectured about eating, isn’t going to get a big kick out of this?

Right. That’s the end of our Quick Art Stop. Thanks to Giselle for sharing her art, and here’s to Emily’s writing. All rights reserved and such. Until later . . .

5 comments to “Quick Art Stop: Giselle Potter and Emily Jenkins’ Sugar

  1. No, I had not seen this book nor heard of it. I LOVE the premise and the art is tres cool. I’d like to snatch up that piece of chocolate cake this minute!

  2. OH MY GOD this is amazing! I must own this book or I shall DIE!

  3. I had to put this on hold right away. How have I been missing it?

  4. I love Giselle Potter! Have you seen her illustrations for a Greek folktale, Mr. Semolina-Semolinus? I’ll have to look for Sugar!

  5. No, I haven’t, Kate, but I’m gonna look for it now! Thanks.

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