CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 13. . . .November 26, 2010
Eli Stutz. Illustrations by C.B. Canga.
New York, NY: Bloomsbury (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2010.
197 pp., hardcover, $20.00.
Adventures and adventurers-Fiction.
Robbers and outlaws-Fiction.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
La Renardette reached out her talons once more, and a sly grin (which I could see clearly) appeared on her features as she prepared to grab Pierre. But Pierre calmly raised his left arm and pointed a single finger in front of him, holding it exactly straight ahead, unwavering. In an instant, his finger and La Renardette’s nose would collide.
A startled look of confusion came over La Renardette. Pierre’s arm passed between her outstretched talons. The moment of impact came. Thunk! I felt the motorcycle shudder, braced myself for a fall, but was shocked to find that we had not fallen over. Then I was even more shocked to find that Pierre was still onboard. Somehow with a lone finger, Pierre had knocked La Renardette off her balance and saved us. “What happened?” I gasped. I looked back, just in time to see the black batlike figure of La Renardette twist off erratically and plunge into the depths of the Seine river. Splash!
Grandfather La Bouche has one chance to save the family farm from bankruptcy. His best pickles must be delivered to the international Picklelympics in Bern, Switzerland, where he is confident it will win the first prize of $100,000. Grandson Pierre, ever reliable and exactly average in everything, is responsible for getting the pickles to their destination. His journey is not without hazard, however, for Grandfather has a rival, the evil Zacharie Borsht, who will stop at nothing to win the contest. He arranges for his granddaughter, the “Great Aurore,” to kidnap both Pierre and his pickles, but, in Aurore, Pierre unexpectedly finds not only an ally but also a narrator for his story. Together, they need to overcome many obstacles, including evil villains, death defying motorcycle rides, catacomb adventures, plane crashes, particle acceleration and more.
Pickle Impossible is Eli Stutz’s first book, and, with the audacity of his protagonists, he presented a copy to the Queen when she visited Canada! The do-or-die adventures, the bossy Aurore, the catchy title, double entendre names and ludicrous subject matter of pickles are all quite preposterously and joyfully silly and all to be taken with a pinch of salt!!
Immersed in a Gallic ambience and a French lilt to the text, children will respond to the book’s irreverent humor, light tone and fast-paced adventures that pit good versus evil. The two main characters are well drawn with Pierre being an improbable but heartwarming hero.
Pragmatists may find the narration by the Great Aurore rather self-conscious and patronizing until they realize that this is a reflection of her opinionated, confident personality. They may also feel the frenetic pace of the plot rather exhausting and find their credulity strained when the author relies too heavily on narrative explanation and highly improbable coincidence to resolve complex dilemmas. But grade 4-6 children will suspend such judgments, recognize the tongue-in-cheek, larger than life concepts and enjoy the book for what it is, a funny, escapist, action packed, fast-paced read.
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian who lives in Toronto, ON.
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