Digressions are things that should occur once things have begun. Don’t you think? One couldn’t possibly begin with a digression when there is nowt yet to digress from.
Of course, I could have begun and then gone off on a digression but I’ve always been a little contrary. I do love a good digression. It is in life’s digressions that one finds the adventure, the pith, the meaning. Does this have anything to do with the story at hand? No, not a whit.
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour is full of digressions. And as someone who loves digressions, these small breaks from the narrative can be refreshing. As long as the digression is interesting, that is. Or in this case, you can join in the game and count the number of digressions in the book.
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour is a collection of five stories from Anne Michaels. An award winning poet and author, this is her first children’s book. Her poetic nous peeks through with a sprinkling of alliteration here and a spattering of rhyme there.
Miss Petitfour is perhaps the ultimate cat lady what with sixteen of them lying about the place. Misty, Minky, Purrsia, Taffy, Pirate, Moutarde, Mustard, Hemdela, Earring, Grigorovitch, Clasby, Captain Captain, Captain Catkin, Captain Clothespin, Your Shyness and Sizzles would certainly not be allowed to cohabit within my council boundaries but it seems Miss Petitfour’s local laws are quite lax on the number of cats allowed on a premises.
Miss Petitfour and her sixteen furry companions love to bake and love to fly. A tablecloth aficionado, Miss Petitfour only has to pick a tablecloth most suited to the day, make sure the breeze is blowing in the required direction and off they go with the cats flying along like a living kite tail.
I must admit to being torn between loving parts of this book and spending the rest of the time wondering why it is labelled for ages seven plus when maybe four plus would better hit a target audience. Of course it depends on the child but the book does seem a little young for a world weary seven year old.
There are certainly moments that shine. The humorous digressions often accompany a highlighted word or phrase. Much like Lemony Snicket, Anne Michaels has not shied away from introducing new words into a young reader’s vocabulary—something a nerd like me would have appreciated as a child.
While there are tones of Enid Blytonesque post-war rationing food fantasy throughout the entire book, the fourth story, ‘The Birthday Cheddar’, is a clear favourite if only for the image of a giant wheel of cheddar as a birthday cake. One niggle though, if a billionaire offers you a shiny new coin for naming twenty dances they’ve never heard of, it’s time to ask whether that coin is made of solid platinum or if this so-called billionaire is the world’s greatest miser.
And what could be more exciting than an explosion at the confetti factory? In the final story, ‘Oom’, we discover that oom just so happens to be the sound of confetti exploding. Could this be the end for Miss Petitfour’s potential beau, handsome and lovely Mr Coneybeare, the Confetti King?*
Emma Block’s illustrations are bright and lively and petite. I hate to overuse the word charming but hell, they’re charming, ok, sue me.† The stories in The Adventures of Miss Petitfour are described as gentle adventures and gentle they are indeed. Perhaps too gentle at times. But Emma Block’s colourful pastelly illustrations suit the stories beautifully.
It is definitely cynicism on my part to say this is more suitable to under sevens than over but for any children who enjoy extremely gentle adventure, cats, cakes, flying tablecloths and confetti, Miss Petitfour is practically perfect.
* It’s not, he’s fine. This is a children’s book.
† Please don’t, I have nothing.