Most helpful positive review
64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Fun and Memorable: A Great Gift!
on October 25, 2004
We first read this book to our son when he was a toddler, now that he's ten, we still use it as a way to encourage his (and our) appreciation of others' choices. Pinkwater is one of the great storytellers and educator its around, and this book deserves as wide an audience as possible. It's that good. As usual, Pinkwater doesn't spend much time on developing a plausible plot: Things just happen, and, because of his dry matter-of-fact tone, you accept it. One day a seagull with a can of bright orange paint "dropped the can (no one knows why) right over Mr. Plumbean's house." The resulting big orange splot upsets the neighbors, who all live in identical brown housed with gray roofs and green shutters. When they ask him to paint his house (to get rid of the orange splot), Plumbean follows the letter--but not the spirit=-of their request. He paints the house red, yellow, green, and purple. He adds more splots, strikes, and "elephants and lions and pretty girls and steam shovels."
The neighbors are aghast. In a recurring motif, the neighbors exclaim that something must be wrong with their neighbor: "Plumbean has gushed his mush, lost his marbles, and slipped his hawser." Mr. Plumbean resists their pressure, explaining in one of many memorable lines from the book: "My house is me and I am it. My house...looks like all my dreams." One by one, over tall glasses of lemonade, Mr. Plumbean casually talks to the other neighbors, one by one, about their own dreams. The following day, each neighbor expresses those dreams through his or her house.
The book isn't so much about nonconformity as about self-expression, or what Maslow called "self-actualization." That everyone eventually paints their house in wild colors is not so much a new form of conformity, but rather the flowering and unafraid celebration of their individuality, and an acceptance of this in others. Very highly recommended; it may be a book you'll treasure for years to come.