A neighborhood busybody “keeps an eye out for trouble.”
Maggie McGillicuddy, an old white lady, sits on her porch knitting when a black family moves next door with their young son, Charlie. As he runs out the front door, his mother warns him to be careful. The boy quickly finds trouble in the form of a tiger stalking across the lawn. It is, of course, a cat, and Maggie and her knitting needles take care of the threat. The next day a tree root morphs into a snake, menacing the pizza-delivery woman, but Maggie again dispatches it. An imaginary eagle with outstretched talons is no match for Maggie either. Then, the next day, real trouble comes as Charlie chases his ball almost into the street but is saved when Maggie yells a warning. After that, Charlie sees a herd of elephants and a big-jawed crocodile but bravely faces them. Hughes addresses readers on more than one occasion, making sure that the threat is seen. “(You see it there, don’t you? Charlie did, too.)” Exactly what readers are supposed to understand is unclear. Not to fear imaginary threats? To embrace paranoia? That Maggie and Charlie are sharing hallucinations? Kerrigan’s bland, washed-out illustrations offer little clarity.
Friendship between a little boy and an old lady is a lovely thing, but the story lacks cohesion and purpose. (Picture book. 3-6)