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Perfectly Arugula Hardcover – February 3, 2009
Everything in hedgehog Arugula’s world is great—clean house, no weeds, shiny quills—and so she decides to have a party. She makes watercress sandwiches, cream puffs, tea, lemonade, and a beautiful strawberry cake; everything is perfect. But when the animal guests arrive (including Parsley the bear, Pistachio the rabbit, and Basil the raccoon), Arugula’s neat and tidy rules make them perfectly miserable. When Fidget the squirrel bursts in and breaks the ice, he livens up the party—but now Arugula is not having a good time. Fidget tells her there’s one key ingredient missing: dancing! Finally, the party is perfect. Panel illustrations of watercolor, gouache, and colored pencils create momentum, while animal asides and rectangular dialogue balloons add whimsy. The overall effect, while not perfect, is pleasant enough for young readers. Preschool-Kindergarten. --Julie Cummins
About the Author
Sarah Dillard has illustrated numerous board and picture books, including Follow the Bunny (Grosset & Dunlap, 2006) and Sterling's Tightrope Poppy the High-Wire Pig (2006), written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Visit Sarah online at www.sarahdillard.com.
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Top customer reviews
What could've been a great story and teachable moment aimed at children with perfectionist tendencies, ends up being a story that needs some serious explanation about saying sorry/asking forgiveness and owning-up to being wrong.
So Arugula has this beautiful party all ready to go; she has invited all of her little friends, but has also specifically excluded one little squirrel because he's too "wild" (I can't remember the word she used to describe him...but it wasn't complimentary). She uses her best china, offers beautifully-prepared food, and presents her home perfectly clean. As the guests arrive, she starts barking orders along the lines of wipe your feet, be careful with my China, don't, do, do, on and on and on... The guests aren't having a good time, and neither is Arugula. But to Arugula's surprise and dismay, in comes the uninvited little squirrel. He makes a mess, snorfs down the food, but also gets the party started. His behavior is not respectful towards Arugula, but the rest of the guests are happy with his sudden appearance, because they observe how much fun he is having, so they join in on the fun.
Arugula stomps off in a huff. The guests notice she is gone, beg her to come back, all is well. The end.
My problems with the book: she intentionally snubbed the squirrel before the party (it's okay to not invite everyone to a party, but this was just so intentional); she barks orders at her guests; her guests follow the squirrel's lead and wreak havoc in Arugula's home, not respecting her property; Arugula does not apologize to squirrel for not inviting him, nor does she apologize for caring more about her things than about being a good hostess. The guests don't apologize for treating her things poorly. The book just ends up a mess of mixed messages. I *think* the message of the book is "lighten up and don't take things so seriously," and "it doesn't have to be perfect to be fun," but I think it needed to go further.
So, while it is illustrated very well, there is a "cute" story told with engaging wordplay (although a bit hard to read as a read-aloud as some pages were laid out in comic-book-style), the story carries some confusing messages. I'm not saying "don't buy it"...just be aware that you may need to explain it a bit further if you are a parent who believes in teaching your children to own up to their wrongs.