Plucky Prudence

h1 June 22nd, 2011 by jules

…a pet.

Really hard-core wants a pet.

So, this picture book—if the F&G version I have is correct—was released just Tuesday of this week. Now, you might think for a moment that I’m positively organized and intended to post about it this week, but here’s really what happened:

I got an early copy of it (F&G, as already mentioned); it then got lost/forgotten (sniff — sorry, poor little galley) under a huge stack of books; a friend with most excellent picture-book taste said in an email (I paraphrase here), “have you seen Cathleen Daly’s and Stephen Michael King’s wonderful Prudence Wants a Pet“?; I immediately thought of this and thought, why, yes, I have seen that; weeks later, I had an epiphany and realized it was another book altogether; I went and found it; I read it; I laughed mighty hard; I fell in love with it; and I decided to post about it today.

I wish it were merely that I am organized. Instead, I just occasionally have miraculously good timing.

And let me tell you right off the bat the best thing about this book, but to do so I have to give away the ending. Prudence—no surprise, given the title—wants a pet SO SUPER BAD and eventually gets a kitten. Mind you, this is after countless NOs from her determined parents. Check out this writing towards the book’s close:

“MEW.” Prudence stands up and jumps up and down eight times. Her eyes get hot and tingly. She’s so happy it leaks out of her eyes a little. She didn’t know about those kinds of tears.

I mean, just…where do I begin? That’s delightfully specific (“Eight times.” LOVE THAT.) It’s honest. It’s far from stale. And it so totally and precisely captures one of those first experiences a child has — in this case, happy, hot, tingly surprise tears.

But let me back up a little and tell you a bit more about the book…

Prudence’s parents won’t let her have a pet, you see. So she takes matters into her own hands. Her first pet is named Branch. It is, um, a branch.

“Its name is Branch. Prudence drags it to school. She drags it home again. ‘Branch is getting some exercise,’ says Prudence. Branch doesn’t eat much. Just a little air. Prudence puts out a bowl of water for Branch. So far Branch has not been thirsty.”
(Click to enlarge spread — No, really. Do. It’s a delight.)

That right there is funny enough, but on the next page? We see that “Branch is an outdoor pet. Branch lives on the front porch. Branch tripped Dad. Eight times.” (And we never see the faces of Prudence’s parents — only their legs).

Dad gets annoyed with the tripping. Branch bites the dust.

But no worries:

“Prudence has a new pet. Its name is Twig. Twig lives in her pocket.
Twig doesn’t need air, water, or a porch. Twig is a miracle.”

(Click to enlarge spread)

Things don’t work out so well with Twig either, but I can’t give away the entire plot here. Next up is, arguably, her funniest pet: An old shoe. Named Formal Footwear. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Well, if I could, I’d be a talented author like Daly, but I’m not.

In a very funny series of illustrations, we see that not only the neighbors (who are clearly using their people voice and putting on forced smiles for her bizarre pet) are baffled by Formal Footwear, but even Prudence is reaching her limit. (Have you noticed yet how she sometimes has dots for eyes and sometimes it’s a big round circle with a dot in it? During her most frustrated moment with Formal Footwear, she’s got one tiny dot for a left eye, yet the right one is all inflamed and huge with Angry Brow. It’s hysterical.)

Formal Footwear ends up in the junkyard.


“Prudence finds a new pet. It is her brother. His name is Milo.
She puts Milo in a box with some water.”

(Click to enlarge spread)

I mean, right? So funny.

She even tries a few more, only to ultimately lock herself in the closet when each and every pet FAILS — and each and every time her parents say no no NO.

But then there’s the aforementioned kitten. (Whew, Prudence.)

“I challenge you not to laugh at the rejected spare tire finding friends in the vacant lot,” wrote Jen Robinson in her 6/13 review. “And the little brother sitting in a box being fed and watered. Daly’s tone is perfect. The reader feels empathy for Prudence, but in a non-mawkish way. The ending is completely satisfying.”

This picture book is fresh and funny. (Kirkus already beat me to that when a reviewer wrote this is a “classic theme {that} feels fresh as a squiggling kitten.”) It’s also a sort of subtle, wicked funny (the best kind), what with little brother in the box of water. (Eventually, in her most realized pet-owning fantasy prior to the actual kitten, she feeds him seeds and grass.) The uncluttered cartoon illustrations from King (an Australian), exhibiting a serious Quentin Blake vibe, depict a great deal of emotion, humor, and … well… humanity with such economical lines.

This one’s a true delight. Dear 7-Imp’ers, after you read a copy, come and talk to me about it.

* * * * * * *

PRUDENCE WANTS A PET. Copyright © by 2011 by Cathleen Daly. Illustrations copyright © by 2011 by Stephen Michael King. Published by Roaring Brook Press, New York. All quotes come from an advance reader’s edition.

4 comments to “Plucky Prudence”

  1. I did think Quentin Blake when I saw the artwork!! I thought the little-brother-as-pet idea was THE BEST.

  2. Great beginning. I also immediately thought of QB! What a funny and fresh take on “I want a Pet.” What a determined kid!

  3. This looks like such an amazing and delightful book! One to add to my collection.

  4. This looks amazing. I’ll have to look for it soon!

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