A touching tale about a boy who learns a timeless lesson.
Debut author Huckleberry introduces us to the Prairie-Paxton’s, a large family of prairie dogs who live a warm, comfortable life in Prairie Dog village. Siblings occasionally squabble but always forgive one another, Mamma is always around to intervene, and Dad splits his time between reading the paper and imparting life lessons to his rambunctious but filially attentive brood. The majority of the narrative is devoted to Pauli, who stays home from school one day and accidentally breaks one of brother John Jr.’s toys. When his parents confront Pauli, he repents and accepts his punishment and a kiss from Mamma before sending a prayer to the heavens. The first thing readers will notice when they open the book are the illustrations; crisp, clean-lined, in black and white, they practically invite beginning readers to add color to them (librarians beware). Pauli and his family are very prettily depicted and accent the narrative in a pleasing fashion. The narrative, however, is often confusing; John Jr. introduces himself as the narrator, but later the narration shifts to third-person limited, describing how Pauli “went straight to John Jr.’s chest” to collect a toy. At several points, Pauli and the third-person narrator even exchange places in the same sentence—“Dad looked around at all our faces and stopped when he got to mine, oh boy I’m done for thought Pauli.” Additionally, beginning readers may find it difficult to follow a narrative that not only shifts point-of-view but also ignores basic grammatical standards; punctuation is oddly placed or frequently absent, resulting in paragraph-long sentences that require multiple rereads to comprehend. Also, misspellings abound, including a curious alternate spelling of the characters’ last name within the text. Still, the story as a whole is endearing, and young Pauli learns a valuable lesson at the end of it.
Cute illustrations and lively, relatable characters would be better served by addressing some serious editorial problems.