February 23, 2015

Princess Pistachio and the Pest

by Marie-Louise Gay
Translated by Jacob Homel
Pajama Press
48 pp.
Ages 5-8
For release March, 2015

Pistachio Shoelace may have been disappointed when she learned the true nature of her royal status, or lack thereof, in Princess Pistachio (Pajama Press, 2014) but the little red-haired wonder of Marie-Louise Gay's newest series has unforeseen challenges to address in her second adventure, Princess Pistachio and the Pest.  And we're so delighted to share in it with her.

Waking up from a horrible school dream in which she is humiliated when she can't answer a simple addition problem, Pistachio is thrilled to realize it's the first day of summer vacation.  She's ready for adventures with her friends Madeline and Chichi exploring a local cavern. But "Pistachio's heart falls to her belly button" (pg. 12) when her mother instructs her to take her baby sister Penny to the park.

Dragging a wagon loaded with Penny, a tower of toys and the hidden dog, Pistachio continues to daydream about exploring the cavern and what she might find.  Meanwhile, Penny dressed in her rabbit-ear hat and Superman cape, proclaims herself to be Super-Rabbit and repeatedly demonstrates that her super-powers are of the unorthodox kind: pilfering fruit from Mr. Pomodoro's grocery stand; climbing up on a wall and falling into Mrs. Oldtooth's garden; and scavenging treasure from the park's fountain.  Unfortunately, Pistachio is taken as responsible for Penny's misdeeds.

Courtesy of her baby sister, Pistachio is never bored and, upon returning home, realizes that there are worse ways to spend a day than babysitting Penny.  But, it's Pistachio herself, with her imaginative daydreams to compensate for missed adventures and with her reactive diatribes to unexpected turns of events, who makes the day eventful.  Her fiery temper may share each disappointment but it's her exuberance for life that mitigates any annoyances the readers may have about her exasperation.  After all, it was the first day of summer holidays and Pistachio's mother knew to use her "maple syrup tone" (pg. 12) to attempt to sway her daughter.  I suspect the girls' mother, with her own fiery red
hair and foxy twinkle, knows well enough what Pistachio feels.  And luckily, Pistachio may feel many things–embarrassment, disappointment, irritation, fear, inspiration–but never boredom.  

Again, Marie-Louise Gay takes our Pippi-Longstocking-esque young character and places her in classic childhood scenarios to which Pistachio must adapt.  Babysitting younger brothers and sisters during summer vacation is not uncommon for children.  But by taking Pistachio into a neighbourhood of colourful people, diverse friends, and lively interactions, young readers may find the means to endure, even enjoy, surprises that arise during the crazy, lazy days of summer when anything can happen, as it does in Princess Pistachio and the Pest.

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