Ever seen those life stress test questionnaires? It’s a form with items you can check off to determine if your stress levels are too high, even if everyday stress is a normal part of life. Has someone in your immediate family died recently? Are you taking on a loan? Have you been fired from work? These things can trigger great stress, and if you check too many of these items, well…you seriously need to consider adjusting in whatever way you can—for your own good health.
One of the items on such lists is moving. Yep, moving can be thoroughly stressful. And if grown-ups find it challenging, imagine how hard it can be on children. Two brand-new picture books address this topic in ways that make them stand out from the crowd.
On the copyright page spread of Liz Garton Scanlon’s The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, we see a young girl, giving a mighty impressive skunk eye—a sideways one at that—to her two friends, standing across the room. In turn, they look at her with wide eyes, as if they are hesitant to tell her something. It’s an inviting way to launch the storytelling here, even before we read the first word. The illustrator has us scratching our heads, wondering what could have possibly gone wrong between these girls.
When we get to the text, we learn that the girl’s name is Posy Peyton, and she’s upset because her family is moving. Posy only reluctantly packs, because she’d like to stay right where she is, thanks very much. She really doesn’t want to say good-bye to her friends, nor does she want to pull down the decorations of their secret clubhouse. Her sadness is plastered all over her face—and it is immense.
When she and her two besties realize one day that every room in the house but the kitchen is packed in boxes, they decide to bake. “Hot, sweet, good pie,” says her friend Mae. That’s when it occurs to Posy that a good pie party would be much better than a good-bye party. At good-bye parties, one actually has to say good-bye, and Posy just isn’t ready. Invitations are made: “We’ll say so long but not good-bye. We’d love it if you’d bring a pie.” Mmm. My kind of party.
The sense of loving community and warmth pervading this story—Kady MacDonald Denton’s sunny, pastel watercolors make the festivities even more luminous—is infectious, as a huge gathering of friends see Posy’s family off. Scanlon writes with understanding and gentleness about the difficulties of saying good-bye. In the end and with less resistance (perhaps she just needed more time, after all), Posy herself even manages to mutter a good-bye to her friends. It’s a hard good-bye, though, handled with such a lovely restraint by Scanlon that it left the same lump in my throat that the girls have when they’re whispering “Good-pie” to one another. (Yes, “Good-pie” helps ease the pain a bit.)
While one gets the sense that moving is, for Posy’s family, a rare occurrence, it appears that the family in Rosemary Wells’ Stella’s Starliner may be more accustomed to it.
Stella’s family lives in a silver trailer home they call the Starliner. It’s tidy and compact and has everything they need. Stella’s dad comes home in his truck at the end of each week, hangs out with the family for a bit, gives them all the money he’s earned, and then heads back to work. Stella has loving parents, a home, security, and even visits from the local bookmobile. Her life is just right. The illustrations—rendered in watercolor, gouache, pastel, ink and colored pencil on sanded paper—are rich, filled with intriguing patterns and details (and lots of captivating silver). They communicate Stella’s cheer—and her cozy, warm world.
One day, a band of weasels tease Stella about her home, likening it to a tin can and telling her she must be poor. After Stella talks to her mother about her hurt feelings, the family heads out and lands in a new place. Here, Stella meets two bunnies, who are very impressed by her home. Let’s face it: You can turn the sofa into a bed and then back into a sofa again by merely pushing a button, which is totally rad. “You must be a millionaire to live a silver house,” they tell her.
Though the ending seems abrupt and somewhat cryptic (is it just the nature of her father’s work for them to be constantly on the move, or were they escaping the weasels?), what I like about this picture book is how Wells touches upon class issues. How often do you see picture book protagonists who live in trailer homes? There’s Lynne Rae Perkins’s Home Lovely from 1995, to name one, but these stories are few and far between. Some children’s homes are on wheels, and we need to read about them too.
Whether you're moving or staying put, here’s hoping you can find time to spend with these books. Oh, and may your house be silver and your kitchen full of pie.
Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.