Tim Egan's The Pink Refrigerator is a profound statement wrapped in a quirky and kid-friendly picture book. I've read it three times already, and I'm not even close to being tired of it. Dodsworth the mouse is in a bit of a rut. Every morning he visits the junkyard, where he scrounges for items to sell in his thrift shop. He makes a living from his thrift shop, but it doesn't keep him very busy, and he spends most of his time sitting around watching TV.
One day Dodsworth notices an old pink refrigerator in the junkyard. The refrigerator has a note on it that says "Make pictures". Opening up the fridge, he finds "a beautiful assortment of paints and brushes and a little red sketchbook." Initially, he takes the items so that he can sell them, but something in the note compels him to try them out instead. Dodsworth paints his first picture. "It was of the ocean, and even though he'd never actually seen an ocean in real life, it turned out pretty good." (I like that this isn't qualified - he doesn't just think that it's pretty good. It is pretty good.)
Visiting the junkyard over the next several days, Dodsworth finds each day a different note on the refrigerator and a different set of items inside. He learns that there are other interesting ways to spend time besides watching television (like reading, cooking, gardening, etc.). By the end of the book, Dodsworth is a changed mouse, with a much broader perspective.
The message of The Pink Refrigerator is clear. Life is more interesting if you get out of your own rut and try new things. What saves the message from being heavy-handed is Dodsworth's demeanor, ranging from suspicious to enthusiastic to disappointed (when the refrigerator stops suggesting new projects). In the end, he slowly figures out the refrigerator's message for himself, and decides to take action on his own terms. The decision doesn't feel forced upon him, and won't feel forced upon the reader, either.
The illustrations are ink and watercolor, and feature many cozy background details to please the reader. I was a bit disturbed to see books on the ground at the junkyard, but I loved Dodsworth's cluttered, multi-room thrift shop and the portrayal of a junkyard as a place filled with treasure waiting to be found. I also liked the LoType font, finding it easy to read, but just a little bit ornate. I thought that it matched the thrift shop atmosphere. The muted colors also seemed fitting for a book set in a thrift shop and a junkyard.
The Pink Refrigerator made me want to step outside of my own ruts, and try something new. I usually give away picture books to friends after I've reviewed them. But this one I can't bear to part with. It's a keeper. I think that the key for me, what makes me want to keep it, is Dodsworth's evolution from one who watches casually to one who marvels to one who takes action. And I like the illustrations, especially the pink refrigerator itself. Recommended for children and adults.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.