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STUFF by Margie Palatini


by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-171921-9
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

An anti-consumerist cautionary tale just doesn't quite work.

Young Edward, a rabbit, has two good friends: Anthony, a beaver, and Marguerite, a cat. Then he has his stuff, his wonderful stuff. Anthony notes that Edward may have a little too much stuff. “How can anyone have too much STUFF?” is Edward’s retort. There comes a day when his stuff leaves no room for Anthony or Marguerite or, for that matter, time. He’s too busy to play because he’s “doing STUFF with my STUFF.” There comes another day when the whole mess collapses on him, and Anthony and Marguerite save his stuff-smothered butt. Palatini’s wordplay keeps this story of prioritizing values from drifting into timeworn homily, as when Edward is at first protected by his stuff when it crashes down: “ ‘I’m saved. Saved by my STUFF!’ How good was that?” Edward’s volte-face from stuff fan to stuff foe also rings true; all that stuff is about to suffocate him, metaphorically and literally. Jones’ illustrations—with their wobbly black linework and clear grasp of Edward’s mania—also strike a balance between reasonable fascination with cool stuff (a tuba, robots, cuckoo clocks) and serious junk (fish heads, smelly sneakers, broken crayons). Then the final page makes a painfully playful stab at comparing friendship to stuff, which not only doesn’t work as irony, but pulls the plug on the whole cautionary endeavor.

Palatini should've stopped one STUFF earlier. (Picture book. 4-7)