Picture Book Love #1
Some picture books knock me off my feet. 32 little pages of big power. So this is book number 1 on this blog in the category of Picture Book Love. A new way to honour and celebrate picture books that are just too good not to gush over.
This book created by Berkeley Breathed has many themes I like to address through picture books: courage, friendship, and diversity. But it is also about love. It celebrates love in the happiest and most joyful of ways. But it doesn’t scrimp on the realities of love: loss, pain, frustration, forgiveness, sacrifice. Love is all of it and this book delivers. It takes you on a journey sailing through a myriad of emotions and delivers you on the other side, changed. Better. Brighter. Exhausted. I have read this book now multiple times and it is as lovely shared as it is in a solo reading. It insists on repeated readings. It is a book I had to instantly own so I could revisit it anytime I wanted. I LOVE this book. Let me tell you why . . .
Pete meets Pickles in the strangest of ways. It is a stormy night and Pete is in the middle of a nightmare about drowning when a sudden sound wakes him. Pete has an odd feeling that something is not quite right. And it isn’t. There is an elephant hiding under his lampshade. A soggy, wet elephant (Pickles) who suddenly grabs Pete with her trunk, looks at him with eyes filled with fear and a request: “Help me.” Things happen very quickly and within moments Pete has given Pickles up to a clown who arrives at the door looking for an escaped elephant. In the morning, Pete realizes that Pickles left behind a gift of dandelions. He deems them ridiculous but he has been touched and before he knows it, he meets Pickles again – this time chained up in a circus tent.
What follows is a beautiful and often wonderfully silly story of break out escapes, changes to Pete’s simple and solo world and struggles between embracing this new colourful, dramatic life with Pickles in it or longing for the quiet simplicity of life before . . .
When Pete’s sensible nature overrules, he sends Pickles packing. But a sudden plumbing disaster changes everything. Both characters need to find safety and it seems there might not be enough safety to go around. How this book turns out must be experienced to be believed. Your heart will be in your throat as you turn the last few pages. Danger and potential of real disaster. Of the heartbreaking kind. But . . . suffice it to say one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced in a picture book awaits and in the end you will be smiling in the happiest of ways. Ahhh, what we do for love!
Breathed explains that a sketch (above) his five year old daughter had made on a restaurant napkin inspired this book. He asked his daughter Sophie about her sketch of an elephant holding a pig and putting flowers on its head. Why was the elephant doing that? She answered “The pig’s sad. Because he’s lonely.” Then she leaned in and whispered, “. . . But he doesn’t know it.”
Pete & Pickles reminds us that relationships are the antidote to loneliness. And sometimes they arrive in your life in the strangest of ways.