Written and Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
Gulliver Books, 1993
Miss Bilberry lived in a pale yellow house at the base of the great blue mountains with a dog named Cecilie, a cat called Chester, and two birds called Chitty and Chatty.
The plot in a nutshell: A woman wonders if life is better on the other side of the mountain.
Miss Bilberry is very happy with her daily routine. She has breakfast under a shady tree, takes care of her plants and animals, has lunch on her veranda, takes a nap in her hammock and plays her violin before going to bed. But when she looks at the distant mountains, she can’t help wondering if life is better on the other side. So one day, she tells her animals they’re moving and they all pack up and head out. They travel for a long while and find themselves lost in the middle of a field of tall flowers. Finally, when they make their way out, they see a house on the horizon and hurry to it. Miss Bilberry unpacks all their boxes and bags and is so tired that she falls asleep in the hammock, which she ties between two palm trees. She is very pleased with her new life in her new home, although she wonders why things seem so much the same and why the mountains still seem to be in front of the house instead of behind.
Author/illustrator Emma Chichester Clark has written and illustrated many books and illustrated lots of books for other authors as well. This story carries a very clear ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ message, but honestly, there’s not much more to it than that. The ending is predictable, which isn’t usually an issue for picture books, because what’s predictable for adults isn’t always so for children. But this one seems to drag a lot around the middle, taking a longer time to get to the point that you already saw coming much earlier on and it just feels like space filler rather than plot. The artwork is nice, but doesn’t stand out in any way that makes it worth recommending. Overall, I liked the message but didn’t feel that the book expressed it as well or as creatively as it could have.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that a search for a happier life sometimes leads you to the conclusion that your current life is pretty awesome already.