How tidy can a forest become and remain a forest?
Pete, a badger, is intense and intent on neatening his forest—no holds barred. “He tidied the flowers by checking each patch, / and snipping off any that didn’t quite match.” He grooms a dubious fox (using, hilariously, a hedgehog as a brush); he sweeps, scours, and vacuums; he brushes birds’ beaks with toothbrushes. When autumn leaves swirl down, he bags them and stands atop the mountain of newly filled black plastic trash bags. A quick uprooting of every tree and a flood drop readers suddenly into a new visual world. Gone is the friendly vibe; gone are autumnal oranges and greens; gone is any background white space. In gray rain and murky brown mud, Pete’s sharp black-and-white face and his red mop and bucket stand out, alien in the watery landscape. Still, Pete won’t yield to nature. While excessive tidying isn’t exactly industrialization or climate change, Pete’s result—a concrete wasteland—invokes both. The rhyming verse regularly changes structure, reflecting the uncertainty of this environment. Artistic virtuoso Gravett wields her pencils, watercolors, and wax crayons (and a nifty, layered cover die cut) to create detail that’s tender and sharp, with backgrounds both lush and quirky. This is an exploration of innocence, loss, the surrender of control, and—thankfully—the option of changing direction before it’s too late.
Alarming, timely, gorgeous, and open-ended, allowing readers the time to think for themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)