A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid (illustrator of The Wonder Book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal) is, quite simply, a joy to read aloud. It's about a girl named Petunia who loves stripes, and has decided that she MUST have a skunk for a pet. ("They have cute little noses. They have big black eyes. They're black and white and they have STRIPES!") Petunia has a stuffed skunk, but she considers her parents' insistence that a real skunk isn't a good idea to be completely unfair. She, in fact, launches into a classic tirade that questions her parents' love for her, insists that "Katie's parents would get HER a skunk", and so on.
Of course, in the end, Petunia learns first-hand why she does not, in fact, want a real skunk for a pet. But even there, Schmid manages to maintain such a humorous, melodramatic tone that A Pet for Petunia completely escapes feeling like a "lesson learned" book.
There is, of course, a strong thematic resemblance between A Pet for Petunia and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems. Similarly unreasonable request, similar ranting and railing against the fates, and even a similar response at the end once the pet proves unattainable. However, A Pet for Petunia has such unbridled enthusiasm (Petunia turning cartwheels over how much she LOVES skunks, and jumping up and down begging her parents), and such a fabulous vocabulary, that it stands out despite these similarities. My favorite page:
"With such disappointing lunkheads for parents,
naturally Petunia must leave home."
I mean, how often to you hear "lunkheads" in picture books? There's also "a humongous stink" once Petunia actually encounters a skunk. Schmid's text is full of exclamation points and bold, capital letters for emphasis. Petunia's rant takes up a whole page, in ever decreasing fonts. As I said above, this book is fun to read aloud. Even my 18 month old, though too young to understand the book, knew when she was supposed to laugh, as I was reading aloud.
The illustrations are simple and clean, perfect for younger readers. Schmid uses primarily black, white, and purple, with just a dash of yellow for variety, and plenty of white space. Petunia's purple and white dress, her toy skunk, and her huge smile are a joy to behold.
After reading A Pet for Petunia, you'll never look at skunks the same way again. Highly recommended for home or library purchase.
Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: John Schumacher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).