A little boy who disrupts the play of two girls and their pet cat finds redemption but no real consequences.
The opening verso sports a wavy line of stylized lettering: “Ella, Maddy, and Marmalade were best friends.” On the recto, the cartoonlike girls and orange cat, all with eyes closed in contentment, trot across a bare white background, nicely inviting readers to turn the page. At the turn, the girls are building a playhouse as “Toby, the boy from across the road, joined in.” Children will enjoy this understatement as they view the resultant havoc. Although Toby shows no malice, he also shows little remorse as he thrice destroys the collaborative sandbox creations of Maddy and Ella. With maddeningly stereotypical gender norms, the girls show both restraint and passive-aggressiveness in reaction to Toby’s behavior. All three children are wide-eyed, pen-and-ink moppets, with the girls in dresses and Toby wearing a superhero’s cape. Marmalade is a cutesy, large-headed cat who infuriates the girls by taking a fancy to Toby. When Toby frightens Marmalade up a tree, his cape then provides a means of rescue, and the next day, all three children and the cat play together happily. The artwork and layout are reminiscent of a mid-1970s aesthetic, an odd environment for a theme that seems to value individualistic, destructive behavior over collaborative, creative play.
This will resonate with parents who are in denial about their progeny’s consistently disruptive behavior. (Picture book. 3-5)