Written by Randall de Sève, Illustrated by Paul Schmid
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013
Peanut had a ball.
The plot in a nutshell: Two sisters want to play with the same toy.
Fifi wants to play with Peanut’s new ball. She tries to take it from her, then she tries asking nicely, but Peanut doesn’t want to share it. Fifi suggests dressing the ball up or playing pretend games with it, but Peanut isn’t interested. Fifi brings in a seal named Bob and offers Peanut the opportunity to play with him instead and after some consideration, Peanut agrees. But by then, Fifi has become attached to Bob and now she doesn’t want to share. Peanut considers her ball and tries to suggest a new game to her sister.
Author Randall de Sève based this story on a conversation between her two daughters, which is probably why the exchange feels so grounded, even when it gets quirky. I really like that Fifi gets creative and tries to offer Peanut something else of value, rather than just begging or nagging. And I particularly like Fifi’s realization that what she has to offer is actually pretty cool and worth enjoying for herself. While there is a conflict at the heart of the story, no one ever seems angry and it’s all done with a sense of fun.
Paul Schmid’s digital illustrations keep that sense of fun. The girls seem to be modeled on Ms. de Sève’s actual daughters, based on the images of them included in The Duchess of Whimsy. But there’s a neat twist here, too. Peanut is drawn as a collection of round shapes and soft rounded edges, mirroring the ball she is holding. Fifi, on the other hand, is all angles and sharp corners. In the final image, though, you can see the girls are playing together, with both the ball and Bob the seal, travelling through space in an imaginary rocket, with shapes of all kinds melding together. It’s a cute touch that you might not even notice, but it beautifully conveys the friendship between these two.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there are usually options around you that are as cool (or even cooler) than the one thing you can’t have.