Friday, November 13, 2020

Freeform Friday: Another Bill Peet Trio (Including Bill Peet: An Autobiography, Kermit the Hermit, and Hubert's Hair Raising Adventure)

I am ashamed to say I didn't discover the complete and utter awesomeness that is Bill Peet, until just this year.  It may very well be the only good thing that I get out of 2020.  I've already reviewed three of this books, but here are three more...

  • Bill Peet: An Autobiography
  • Kermit the Hermit
  • Hubert's Hair Raising Adventure

...because, clearly, I can't get enough of them.  

Summary: Bill Peet tells his life story, including his years with Disney, with illustrations on every page.  (Summary from goodreads.com - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I wish I could own the entire Bill Peet collection, but as the collection is quite large and I am not independently wealthy, I am resigned to reading as many as I can and hoping to own my favorites.  In my quest for the best, I was surprised to find this autobiography mixed in with all the children's fiction on some of the internet's "Best of Bill Peet" lists.  When I found out it was both a Caldecott Honor Book and an ALA Notable book, I knew I had to read it and I am so glad I did.

Bill Peet: An Autobiography is an absolutely charming memoir that tells the author's life story with a beautiful balance of text and illustrations.  I followed the ups and downs of Peet's life with rapt attention and reveled in its nostalgic feel.  His somewhat idyllic childhood spent on the farm, gamboling about the countryside, dreaming of African safaris, and sketching his heart out, was tempered by Peet's rocky relationship with his father, the death of his grandmother, the Great Depression, and his struggles with school and employment. Eventually landing a job at Disney, Peet worked on animated classics like Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Song of the South, Cinderella, numerous short films, and even helped produce wartime propaganda.  It was fascinating to read about Peet's projects, the early animation processes, and the idiosyncrasies of Disney's oh-so-famous founder.  Armed with this history, it was to see how Peet's interests and experiences -- his love of trains, animals, cars, dragons, the circus, the farm, and even some of life's harder knocks -- informed and influenced his artwork throughout his career.  


I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Bill Peet or simply loves children's literature.  Although Peet's story is quite engaging, with cross-generational appeal, the undeniable star of the book is -- surprise, surprise -- his illustrations, which both enhance the story and showcase Peet's unique abilities, iconic style, and delightful characters.  Those illustrations made me want to look up every book he'd ever written and watch every short film he'd ever animated.  My only complaint is that the book ended rather abruptly.  One minute he was talking about his projects post-Disney and then BAM. End of book.  I suppose the mark of a good book is that you don't want it to finish, and I definitely closed the book wanting more. 

My Rating: 4.25 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader: One of the sketches has the vaguest suggestion of a bare bum jumping into a swimming hole.  Super shaded.  Not detailed.  

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Summary:  A little boy saves Kermit from disaster, and the once cranky crab works hard to repay him. 

In Monterey Bay there's a jumble of rock
Stacked up like a castle across from the dock.
The king of his castle, an old crab called Kermit,
Lived all by himself in his cave like a hermit.
There was never a crab who was one half as selfish
Or one tenth as mean as this crusty old shellfish....

(Summary from goodreads.com and billpeet.net  - Image from barnesandnoble.com)

My Review:  I'm not one of those people that judges a book by its cover (#YesIAm) but just look at that cantankerous crustacean!  Isn't he adorable?!  His crabby little face really appealed to my inner hermit and I knew I had to give this book a chance.  I am so glad I did!

Kermit the hermit crab lives in a cave down by the docks where he has to fight seagulls and other crabs for every scrap of food.  Kermit soon becomes greedy for other things and starts hoarding all sorts of junk he doesn't even need, crowding it all in to his home in the rocks.  There Kermit lived, alone with his stuff, until one day he spotted something shiny on the beach and left his lair to investigate.  The shiny something turns out to be nothing more than an old can, but Kermit runs afoul of an old dog who tries to bury him in the sand.  A raggedy young boy saves the cranky old crab from the dog and sends him back into the ocean.  Kermit is overcome with gratitude wants to find a way to reward the youth for his good deed.  In one such attempt, Kermit is whisked out to sea and into the middle of a fabulous adventure, where he finds a very special way to show his gratitude. I won't spoil it for you, but it involves a pelican and a flying crab, so you definitely won't want to miss it.  

As previously stated, Kermit is stinking cute.  Even cranky, it's impossible not to love his moody mug.  Children will thoroughly enjoy reading about Kermit's adventures on both land, sea, and in the air, accompanied by classic Peet illustrations.  Personally, I loved the eloquent and clever rhyming verse -- kids books always seem so much more fun to read when they rhyme -- and how the story shows that people can change, the importance of gratitude, and that small actions can have enormous, transformative consequences.  I would recommend this book to anyone who has kids, or reads to kids, or knows kids, or just likes Bill Peet books in general.  Kermit the Hermit is one of my favorites.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  All good.  

___________________________ _____________________

Summary: Hubert the Lion was haughty and vain and especially proud of his elegant mane. Then one day, a terrible accident occurred and his mane was burned, leaving him with a "head full of stubble." So begins Hubert's story... (Summary from billpeet.net - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure was the first picture book ever published by Bill Peet.  Since then, he has written more than 30 beloved children's books as well as an award-winning illustrated autobiography (reviewed above).  While I haven't been able to read all of his books yet (#goals), this one is high up my list of "favorites".

In Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventures a young prideful lion loses his mane in a dreadful fire.  Ashamed and embarrassed, he hides from the other animals, until one nosy bird discovers his secret and shares it with the other animals.  Soon a veritable menagerie gathers to gawk at the lion's misfortune and brainstorm of a solution.  Many of the animals offer ideas, but only Elephant is willing to venture into the swamp to collect the necessary ingredients to help Hubert's hairlessness -- crocodile tears.  When Elephant returns, the animals gather to see if the tear tonic will work and, boy, does it ever!  Hairy hijinks ensue, a Baboon with scissors takes center-stage, and Hubert's ends up with thoroughly unique coiffure that will leave young ones giggling.

As with Kermit the Hermit (see above), Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure is written in rhyming verse. Not all of Peet's books rhyme, and they are great either way, but I find that I prefer it when his words have the gentle lilt that comes with certain kinds of poetry.  I also loved the book's subtle messages regarding friendship, self-acceptance, helping others, and embracing one's individuality.  Sadly, this is probably the last Bill Peet book I will review because at this point I feel like I am repeating myself in these reviews (a la  Peet's books are charming, clever, and well-illustrated with a subtle moral message). Simply put, they are all the things that I think a good children's book should be.  If you haven't read Bill Peet, your life is not complete (see what I did there?), so get to it!

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Baldness is presented as something undesirable and embarrassing, which could be problematic for a portion of the population.

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