Written by Sarah Wilson, Illustrated by Catherine Stock
Kids Can Press, 2003
One bright and breezy summer’s day
An invitation came our way
To picnic with the King of France,
His court, his cows, his cats, his plants!
The plot in a nutshell: A picnic on a hot day takes an interesting turn
After getting the invitation from the King, our narrator and his father, along with three aunts and two dogs, travel across France to attend. They dance so much along their journey that Papa’s pants start to wear thin. On the day of the picnic, everyone dresses in their finest, with ribbons and bells. It’s a very hot day and they are all sweating by the time they reach the picnic. Some of the King’s counselors remark on the heat. Then, as everyone is sitting down for the meal, Papa’s pants split, firing buttons in all directions. All is quiet for a moment, then the Queen starts laughing and everyone else follows. The King decrees that everyone should strip down to their underwear. The entire party takes off everything except their underwear and they all dance as musicians play. The narrator even gets to dance with the Queen.
Author Sarah Wilson takes a great message about rolling with the punches and wraps it in a fun and very readable rhyme, with a subject matter that is sure to be a hit with young kids. The very idea of being with lots of important people who are all in their underwear is pretty hilarious. When you add in the fact that everyone, including the royal family, is dressed (or undressed, more to the point) that way in order to make a guest with torn pants feel less awkward adds a measure of generosity into the fun.
Catherine Stock’s artwork, in pen and ink, watercolor and collage, sets the perfect tone for this story, with pictures that resemble French Impressionist paintings. There are lots of flowers and colorful clothes, with soft swirly patterns in the fabrics. Look closely for even more fun in these pictures, with a few interestingly dressed animals joining in on the picnic. You can see that the folks in this story are having a wonderful time at this picnic that just gets better when they all jump on the underwear bandwagon.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that embracing a problem is one of the quickest ways to take the sting out of it.