Mr. Peabody’s Apples


Written by Madonna, Illustrated by Loren Long

Callaway, 2003

In the town of Happville (which wasn’t a very big town), Mr. Peabody was congratulating his Little League team on a great game.

What made this author famous? Madonna is the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century as well as being an actress, songwriter and producer.

Mr. Peabody is a teacher who also organizes baseball games on the weekend. One day, he’s walking home after a game and as he passes the market, he takes an apple from the market and puts it in his bag without paying for it. Across the street, a boy named Tommy sees him do this and rushes off to tell his friends that Mr. Peabody stole an apple. The next week, it happens again and there are more boys watching when he takes the apple. The boys all tell their parents and the story spreads throughout the small town.

The next week, no one shows up to play baseball except Billy, who tells Mr. Peabody about the rumor going around town about him stealing apples. Together, they go see the man who owns the market and he tells Billy that Mr. Peabody pays for an apple every Saturday morning, with the understanding that he can take it anytime. Tommy comes to apologize for spreading gossip and Mr. Peabody takes him to the baseball field with a feather pillow. He asks Tommy to cut the pillow in half and shake the feathers out. The wind blows them in all directions and Mr. Peabody asks Tommy if he could go pick all of the feathers up. When Tommy says no, Mr. Peabody tells him that gossip spreads out like those feathers until it’s impossible to retract, so it’s important to be careful with the words you say. Tommy understands and heads off to repair the damage he’s done.

Nowadays, they'd all be filming the notorious apple theft on their smart phones.

Nowadays, they’d all be filming the notorious apple theft on their smart phones and in minutes, it would be all over Facebook.

This is the second of Madonna’s picture books that I’ve read and I’m sorry to say that, while I found this one more tolerable than the plodding, pointless Yakov and the Seven Thieves, it suffers from many of the same issues. Once again, the story is too wordy and overlong, with a message that is heavy handed and imperious. In a note to the reader, Madonna states that the plot was inspired by a story that her Kabbalah teacher shared with her about the power of words. I liked the basic plot of the story and I think the feather analogy is very good as a representation of how gossip spreads. I’d be interested to hear the original story that inspired it.

Illustrator Loren Long gives the story a small town setting with artwork that’s reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. I loved the use of shading and perspective in the illustrations and the facial expressions do a wonderful job of telling us what the characters are feeling. Once again, the book’s artist is not credited on the cover, which feels cheap and disrespectful. Even on the acknowledgements page, there is almost no information about the artwork, while the book’s font somehow warrants four sentences. I imagine this is usually a publisher decision, but it feels like it’s marginalizing the artist. On a positive note, all of the proceeds for this book were donated to the Spirituality for Kids Foundation.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that once words have been said, you can’t really take them back…so think before you speak.


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