Picture Book Reviews: Princess Puffybottom…and Darryl & A Piglet Named Mercy

If you’re ready for wonderful animal-centered picture books, then hang on to your summer hat! Courtesy of Tundra Books, Candlewick Press,  and Penguin Random House Canada, I have two excellent titles for you: Princess Puffybottom…and Darryl by Susin Nielsen and Olivia Chin Mueller  and A Piglet Named Mercy by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen. Enjoy!

Life was good.
Until the day Darryl arrived. He was horrible. He was disgusting. He was an animal!
Princess Puffybottom knew he would not last. Darryl would be banished. It was only a matter of time. So she waited. And waited.

I briefly talked about Princess Puffybottom…and Darryl in a ‘Great Picture Books’ round-up post as I adored it so much when I first took it home from the library! When the opportunity for review came about, I felt very fortunate to be able to spend more time with this book- and to get a chance to discuss it in more detail.

For readers of middle grade and YA-  more specifically, of award-winning Canadian middle grade and teen fiction, you might immediately recognize author Susin Nielsen’s (The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larson, Optimists Die First) name! Nielsen’s latest is a picture book collaboration with artist Olivia Chin Mueller, an illustrator whose work you may recognize from Bedtime Yarn. Princess Puffybottom, a rather glamorous, very pampered and used-to-getting-her-way fluffy black cat is dismayed, and definitely a smidge infuriated, when her parents bring home a slobbering and seemingly not-too-bright mess of a puppy named Darryl. For Princess Puffybottom, a sharp and pristine cat who has been used to the undivided attention of her parents and having everything her way at home, the arrival of Darryl is something awful. While Princess Puffybottom waits and maybe, possibly, pushes for Darryl to be kicked out for his messy and silly behavior, she notices that, for some reason, Darryl seems to kind of…like her? Maybe even idolize her? Can Princess Puffybottom learn to put up with- and maybe even like?– a garbage-rooting little (cute) beast of a puppy like Darryl? Just when things seem to calm down a little bit between Princess Puffybottom and Darryl- it turns out that a dog is actually useful for a cat to keep around!- their moms come home with yet another surprise! Splendidly funny and charming beginning to end, Susin Nielsen’s terrific, fluid and simple storytelling is paired brilliantly here by Olivia Chin Mueller’s dreamy, stupendously adorable artwork. (If you’re so inclined, do check out Olivia Chin Mueller’s darling Mousemoth creation!). Princess Puffybottom…and Darryl is a winner of a picture book, and I wonder if we might ever be so lucky to get more stories of the two stars in the future!

One day, Mrs. Watson said to Mr. Watson, “I wonder if we aren’t just the tiniest bit too predictable.”
“Predictable? Us?” said Mr. Watson. “Surely not.”
“It’s just that sometimes, I wish something different would happen,” said Mrs. Watson.

If you have ever happened upon the delightful (and I do mean, undeniably delightful) and bestselling early chapter book series Mercy Watson, you might have, at some point, wondered about Mercy’s origin story. (And if you’ve never had the opportunity to meet Mercy yet, don’t worry, as this picture book serves as perfect introduction to all things Mercy!). The award-winning and much-beloved author and illustrator team of Kate DiCamllo and Chris Van Dusen brings readers the story of how “porcine wonder” and adorer of buttered toast Mercy Watson comes to Deckawoo Drive as a piglet, meets her family of Mr. and Mrs. Watson, and charms (almost all) of her neighbors. Mrs. and Mr. Watson of Deckawoo Drive have been going about their ordinary lives on their “ordinary street” in their “ordinary town”, and while Mr. Watson doesn’t find it to be a problem, Mrs. Watson wonders if some change might be needed in their lives. Before you can say “hot buttered toast”, change comes to the couple by way of an adorable little piglet with purple-tinged ears falling off a truck and finding her way to the Watson’s home! To the delight of next-door neighbor Baby Lincoln and to the deep, deep distaste of next-door neighbor (and big sister to Baby) Eugenia Lincoln, it becomes apparent that Mrs. and Mr. Watson will become Mercy Watson’s forever family. Chris Van Dusen’s 50’s/60’s era-like glossy gouache artwork is vivid, charming and perfect, while Kate DiCamillo continues to transcend with her specific, incalculable way of capturing humour, sincerity and unorthodox stories and characters. From the Watson’s earliest moments of meeting, feeding, and falling in love with Mercy, to how the lucky “porcine wonder” gets her name, readers both familiar with and totally new to Mercy Watson and her world will likely adore this witty, off-kilter, sweet and entertaining tale.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Tundra Books, Candlewick Press & Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

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