Friday, January 25, 2008

A Picnic with the Barleys

Karen Hunt's A Picnic with the Barleys, is a sequel to The Rumpoles and the Barleys, but like the best sequels, it stands alone quite nicely.
In this tale, the Rumpoles (a family of mice from a wealthy neighborhood) trot off on a sunny day to meet with some country acquaintances. One of the Rumpole children, Prunella, brings her special pink parasol, and Mama dresses to the nines in a purple frock and bonnet. As the family nears the picnic area, Papa warns the children to stay away from a nearby bog where weasels live. "Weasels don't like [mice] very well," Mama explains. The children promise to do as their parents ask.
Soon, the family meet up with many country mice, including their new friends, the Barleys. Mama feels overdressed and embarrassed, but the country mice make her feel welcome all the same. The children play all sorts of games, and the girl mice admire Prunella's pretty parasol. But Prunella doesn't allow one little mouse, a "big and bold and grabby" girl named Cordelia, to touch her parasol. Later that day, Prunella realizes her parasol is missing. Her brother, Eustace, spots Cordelia carrying it off toward the bog. Not wanting to disobey his parents by following her, Eustace warns her to come back. Suddenly Cordelia screeches "Weasels! Help! Help!" Dagwood, one of the country mice, runs into the bog to save her - just as a scary weasel is drawing near.
All the other mice praise Dagwood's bravery and courage, but "poor Cordelia was quite forgotten. She hung her head and blew her nose into her pinafore." Prunella approaches her. "I'm sorry I didn't share my parasol with you," she says. "And I don't mind that you lost it [in the bog]. Let's forgive each other and be friends." As the day ends, Prunellas' parents add, "Remember, it is also brave to say 'sorry' and to forgive.'" The book ends by quoting Psalm 86:5: "O Lord, You are so good and kind, so ready to forgive; so full of mercy for all who ask for Your help."
What I Like: Hunt's illustrations are outstanding. They are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter's, but are more detailed and colorful. The story itself is a good one, too, with messages about sharing, putting yourself in someone else's shoes, bravery, apologizing, and forgiving.
What I Dislike: Nothing.
Overall Rating: Very good.
Age Appeal: The publisher doesn't specify, but I would say 4 - 8.
Publishing Info: Harvest House, 2008; ISBN: 0736921737; hardback, $12.99.
Buy Now at for $9.99.
Or buy at for $10.18
Special Info: You may wish to visit the author and illustrator's website.

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