This vivacious first book from a husband-and-wife team retells a Norwegian folktale about the war between the sexes. Hans, a ``master complainer,'' demands to trade places with his wife, Gertrude, for a single day. Why should she sit at home in leisure, he asks her, when he's out toiling in the fields? Naturally, Hans's attempts to keep house go disastrously and comically awry. A pink pig races through spilled cream as Hans rages after him; three geese honk out an alarm as the family cow dangles from the roof of the house; Hans sours the well and winds up falling down the chimney head-first into a kettle of porridge just as Gertrude calmly returns home and restores order. Debby Atwell's oil paintings, generous with Wedgewood-like blues, are reminiscent of Norwegian folk art but frequently are also given softly diffused back lighting. Pictures and text brim with brio right until the worthy punch line at the end. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-- A retelling of a well-known folktale with new illustrations. Hans feels that the work is not evenly divided between his wife and himself. They trade places for a day, and the man's troubles begin. He carelessly allows the pig into the kitchen, it upsets the churn, etc. The culmination comes when he decides to pasture the cow on the roof. Of course, the animal falls off and pulls Hans up the chimney. He remains there until his wife returns home and rescues him. In this version, long-suffering wife Gertrude reassures the foolish Hans that indeed farming is hard work, and the fellow replies, `` `I knew the fields would prove too much for you.' '' Debby Atwell's oils combine strong lights and darks. Paint is applied in robust lines and blobs without excessive blending or reworking--a full-page painting on the left-hand page faces centered text on the right. She gives readers a cranky Hans and a rather bland Gertrude, who allows herself only one little covered-up smile at finding her man in the chimney. Clues in the illustrations hint at what is going to happen next: the pig looks longingly at the butter churn, a cider tap is left in Hans's hand. The cat is never mentioned, but adds silent comment in many pictures. But witty pictures aren't enough. Hans is too bad tempered for sympathy, and never arrives at a realization that the division of work is an equitable one. Better versions of this story abound.-- Ruth Semrau, Loverau, Lovejoy School, Allen, TX
The old domestic farce about the bossy husband who thinks he can easily manage the housework but ends up with the household in chaos is retold here with beautiful pacing and a droll voice that's just right for storytelling. Hans is a master complainer who grouses that he has to work hard in the fields while his wife lazes around at home. To keep the peace, his long-suffering wife agrees to swap work for the day and let him mind the house. The folk art paintings with their thick lines, dramatically contrasting colors, and simplified comic shapes exaggerate the messy fun as an angry, helpless Hans slides around with the farm animals in cider, cream, and butter. There's a wonderful climax when the wife returns home from the fields to an unusually quiet husband--he's fallen down the chimney head first into the porridge.