Petunia decides she’s more animal than girl (RARH!).
Human behavior requires too much structure: cleanliness, clothing, combing, quiet. Petunia enacts all these banalities, all these “hafta[s],” in an effective spread of c-sounds and frowny-faces. Tiny expressions relay her utter exhaustion with people rules (as well as her joy in running bare-bottomed!). Children will empathize, as they know what it’s like to have a wild impulse crushed for millionth time. Careful! After gobbling breakfast off the floor, growling at neighbors and bathing in a mud puddle, Petunia asks to become the family pet, helpfully holding up a leash and collar. Her parents’ response suffocates an entire page, filling it with fuming type and angry large letters that gradually dwindle in size but not quantity. This visual tune-out of a parental rant works well optically and rings true to young ears, too. Schmid’s suggestive charcoal drawings and purple watercolor accents enjoy lots of white space and clever compositional placement. A mellow orange highlights the animal kingdom (Petunia’s pinned-on tiger tail, stuffed animals and the scrawled words MAIL TO AFRICA on a child-sized box). Her mother’s singing in the kitchen draws Petunia back to her human house, but readers sense Petunia will always remain a little feral.
Simple illustrations convey a simple truth: children love to run wild! (Picture book. 3-7)