By Paul Schmid
A few years ago, kids were obsessed with penguins. Not practical as pets, but no doubt common items on Christmas wish lists.
Petunia has a different black and white critter in mind: a skunk. Schmid writes, "Petunia wants, wants, wants! a REAL pet skunk." And Petunia is a persistent child.
Parents and children will be able to relate to the pet-begging pitches and promises. If Petunia gets a skunk, it will surely be one pampered pet. But Petunia's parents hold strong, daring to assert that skunks stink.
Petunia's ensuing verbal tantrum is the highlight of the book. (Too many of us will see ourselves in petulant Petunia.) She decides to run away and you can guess what she encounters in the woods.
The simple, amusing black and white illustrations are adorned with splashes of purple and the odd dash of mustard yellow. They are just enough to move the story along. It's Schmid's word choice and phrasing that truly stand out.
While I rarely review books with female protagonists, boy readers will easily connect to Petunia and their own imaginations are likely to be sparked by thoughts of an ultra-stinky pet. Penguins? Yawn. Pigs? Phooey! The skunk's the thing.