The grumple of the title is a small, white-furred animal with a bushy black tail and ears, dressed in pajamas.
Its mom, a bigger version of the young animal, wearing a prim, flowered dress, tries to wake it with kisses and songs and to entice it outdoors to see the other animals. In their suburban woodland house, the grumple sleeps under a patchwork quilt, holding its fox doll. Addressing readers directly, the text advises: “If it’s [sic] brow begins to furrow, / If it hides inside its burrow, / Then lean close and sing a little louder: / Shush—Shush—There’s no rush / The sun is gold in the morning hush.” That golden sun has a greenish cast in Gauthier’s mixed-media collage illustrations, and the palette used throughout is mostly made of dull grays, greens, and browns. The cutout pieces (birds, a potted plant, the grumple’s toy) incorporated into the illustrations have a playful, childlike look in contrast to the somber colors. When the mother finally persuades the child to leave its comfy bed, it magically changes from its pajamas into its overalls during a verse that spans a page turn and then goes out willingly to greet the day. His friends, including a bear parent and cub standing outside, are also dressed in human clothing, but the birds and fish scattered throughout the landscape are in their natural feathers and scales. The textual decision to place readers in the position of parent rather than child is a puzzling one.
While the relationship between parent and child is a lovely, loving one, this book doesn’t do much that isn’t being done elsewhere. (Picture book. 3-6)