Written by Frank Asch, Illustrated by Bernard Wiseman
Parents Magazine Press, 1983
When George was a little boy he lived with his mother and father in the back of their grocery store.
The plot in a nutshell: A shopkeeper and his parrot meet an unusual customer.
Young George helps out in his parents’ store and grows up to own a store of his own. He and his parrot, Pete, enjoy playing a game where they guess what each customer wants when they come in the door. Sometimes they guess correctly and other times, they don’t. Then one day, a woman comes in that baffles them. They both make lots of guesses, but over and over, they are told they are incorrect. When George gives up, the woman tells him what she wants is him. They marry and live together with their family in the back of the store.
This book was one of our Parent’s Magazine book club selections when our kids were little and it was a family favorite, mostly because of how much fun it was for the kids to participate in reading it aloud. Author Frank Asch wrote several wonderful books for kids, including his Bear series (of which Popcorn was another family favorite). I love the concept of George and Pete making a game of guessing what customers will want. It’s a neat way to illustrate the concept of using context clues to make assumptions, while also showing that those assumptions are not always right.
Mr. Asch frequently illustrated his own books, but the artwork in this one was done by Bernard Wiseman (going by B. Wiseman on the cover). Mr. Wiseman was also a picture book author, who wrote a great series of books about Morris the Moose and Boris the Bear. The illustrations are on the simple side and usually feature dialogue in word balloons. The store shelves in the background provide a cool visual continuity that makes the store feel comfortable and happy. It was always fun to read this with the kids and it was great to reconnect with it again.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that no matter how good you are at reading people, there are always folks out there who will surprise you.