Larky Mavis

Larky Mavis

by Brock Cole, Jenny Sterlin

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Another orginal picture-book fairy tale

Larky Mavis, an eccentric soul, finds three peanuts in the middle of the road. The first tastes like liver and onions. The second, like bread pudding. And the third — well, inside the third is a baby. Larky Mavis decides to name it Heart's Delight and to take care of it. She shows it to the teacher, and he says

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Another orginal picture-book fairy tale

Larky Mavis, an eccentric soul, finds three peanuts in the middle of the road. The first tastes like liver and onions. The second, like bread pudding. And the third — well, inside the third is a baby. Larky Mavis decides to name it Heart's Delight and to take care of it. She shows it to the teacher, and he says it looks like a worm. She asks the parson to christen it, but he thinks it's a mouse. And when she asks the doctor to help her teach the baby to say "Ma," he thinks it's a deformed bird. And indeed, Heart's Delight has sprouted wings. As Mavis's charge grows and grows, readers will recognize that Heart's Delight is something akin to an angel, and the townspeople also realize that it is something special, but they want to take it away. And as much as Larky Mavis tries to protect Heart's Delight, it is the peanut-shell baby who turns out to be Mavis's savior in the end.

This unusual tale is illustrated by the author in lively watercolors.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brock (Buttons) delivers a lyrical and ever-relevant picture book. Larky Mavis, depicted in loose-flowing but highly expressive watercolors as a simpleton in rags, "moons about" the byways and squares of a village where time has stopped. Stumbling upon three peanuts, she finds in one a creature she identifies as a little baby. She names him Heart's Delight and cherishes him, even after the schoolmaster calls him a worm, the parson proclaims him a mouse and the doctor labels him as a deformed bird or bat. Readers do not see Heart's Delight, so they will not know which, if any, definition fits. The text outlines the villagers' contempt for Mavis ("You're not to hang around the church," the parson reminds her. "People don't like it"), while the illustrations show her feeding a homeless family (not mentioned in the text) and villagers recoiling from her even as she faithfully tends her charge. Finally, villagers (and readers) get a glimpse of her child first, what appear to be wings peek out of the bundle Mavis carries and, soon after, an angel emerges. Suddenly the schoolmaster, the parson and the doctor find uses for Heart's Delight, but he has his own purpose: he carries Mavis into the sky to an unnamed destination. The tale's enigmatic quality elevates it above a simple moral tale, and the scenes conveying Mavis's kindness will win sympathy for her. Brock draws material from fables, fairy tales and mythic archetypes to create a story that will resonate deeply with readers. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
There isn't anything proper or conventional about Larky Mavis. She has curly, untidy hair the color of a carrot. Her stockings come with holes, her skirt is patched together, her brown jacket is raggedy, and her green top has seen better days. She doesn't have a regular job but, instead, spends her time "mooning about"—that is, until she trips on three peanuts lying right in the middle of the road. She eats the first two (one tastes like liver and onions and the other like bread pudding). But the third peanut gives her pause. Inside is a little baby, and she's not about to eat that. Yet nobody else in the town thinks Mavis has found a baby. One sees a worm while others see a mouse, deformed bird, or a bat. The diet Mavis feeds her "Heart's Delight" may be questionable—she starts out with nuts and berries and then resorts to soup made with frostbitten potatoes and cabbage stalks, but nonetheless he keeps growing. As "Heart's Delight" grows bigger, the townspeople still can't quite figure out what he is—a "pig with four ears," a "calf and a half," or "some kind of dragon." The doctor wants to give him treatments and write an article. The schoolmaster wants to preserve him in a bottle for his "Natural History" collection. The butcher and the parson have their own designs. Mavis pays them no heed. She is a devoted mom, and she carries her bundle wherever she goes. Much to everyone's surprise, Heart's Delight—the being everyone makes fun of—has learned to talk. And not only that, he can now take care of his "mother." Heart's Delight has sprouted wings and, like a guardian angel, carries off Mavis into the sky to a "cottage by the sea," or maybe "to another land altogether, where babies grow inpeanut shells..." Brock Cole is an artist with a terrific sense of humor and charm to boot. His pen and watercolor drawings are nothing short of sensational. Cole captures great expressions (and no townsperson is lacking one). Larky Mavis and her Heart's Delight are not the only characters who stand out. The bespectacled schoolmaster wears a rusty orange checked suit and green-and-white-striped socks, a brown vest, and blue bow tie. (He doesn't walk; he skips.) The doctor wears a bowler hat and drives a classy red car. Most of Cole's men favor checked pants, and the women go for stripes or polka dots. Each page is filled with whimsy. Many (if not all) children will relate to this marvelous tale and its quirky heroine. Larky Mavis is a little odd. She stands out from the crowd. Mavis is the one everyone picks on. But she goes on her merry way. And, in the end, she may not have the last word (that's reserved for Heart's Delight), but she's about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, 32 pages,
— Kem Knapp Sawyer
Children's Literature
Larky Mavis walks to the beat of her own drummer—"Down the road came Larky Mavis, mooning about, mooning about." The watercolor illustration shows a ragged woman, her gaze distracted by something the reader cannot see. She slips on three peanuts lying in the road, and, having eaten two of them, finds something special in the third. This thing, which Mavis calls a baby, is dismissed by various townsfolk as a worm, a mouse, and, as it grows, a turkey in molt, or worse. No matter—Mavis cherishes her new charge and names it Heart's Delight. The reader does not get a clear look at Heart's Delight, and must choose whose opinion to trust—that of the kindhearted, free-spirited Mavis or the disapproving, oppressively conventional townsfolk. In the end, Heart's Delight proves to be something very special indeed. People now try to take Heart's Delight away from Mavis and crowd around her threateningly. Heart's Delight rescues Mavis and takes her away—"Where did they go? Ah, no-one knows,"—but it must certainly be a better place. A quirky, original fairy tale, which rolls rhythmically along and provides plenty of food for thought. 2001, Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16.00. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Barbara Maitland
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-The people of the village mostly ignore odd Larky Mavis, who is always "mooning about," ragged patches on her skirt, holes in her sagging stockings. That changes when she finds a baby she names Heart's Delight in a peanut shell. She ardently protects and nurtures her charge with no help from the village leaders. In fact, they complain, "What a pest that Mavis is!" and begin to fabricate increasingly threatening stories about Heart's Delight, whom they can't see quite clearly: "It'll bite a child someday-. Something's got to be done." The prose is lyrical, peppered with quaint speech patterns and lively dialogue that is a delight to read aloud. Cole creates an entirely believable fantasy world that takes both the characters and his readers by surprise. The rumpled, animated line-and-watercolor illustrations extend the charming story beyond his tightly constructed prose. Readers will gleefully observe something magical begin to emerge from Larky's bundle, something with wings, and wonder what it might be. They will also observe three children never mentioned in the story who become Larky's steadfast companions even as the village turns against her. This is a sparkling fantasy that will enchant children and leave them pondering about those among us whom we call "odd" and, perhaps, about the existence of angels.-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From the author of "Buttons "(2000) comes a simply told tale with deep emotional and metaphorical resonance. Town fool Larky Mavis, "mooning about, mooning about," trips over peanuts in the road, one of which contains-well, what "is "it? A worm, opines the schoolmaster. A mouse, says the parson. Maybe a bat, sniffs the doctor. Calling it "Heart's Delight," and keeping it swaddled out of sight in ragged blankets until the end, Larky Mavis feeds it and carries it about, even as it grows to baby size and larger. With curling wisps of line and color, Cole depicts Mavis as an unkempt redhead living outdoors, caring for a trio of disheveled children as well as her Heart's Delight as townsfolk in country dress look on with increasing unease. At last, when they try to relieve Larky Mavis of her burden, Heart's Delight sprouts wings and carries her away. The story's musical language and the whimsical, freely drawn art combine to keep the general tone light, but the characters, settings and events here, strongly reminiscent of Maurice Sendak's "We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy "(1993) though not so portentous, will leave sensitive readers moved and thoughtful. "(Picture book. 8-10)"

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Product Details

Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
The Frog Princess Series
Age Range:
5 Years

Meet the Author

Brock Cole's previous picture book, Buttons, was a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book for Picture Book and the Top of the List of Booklist's Editors' Choices. He lives in Buffalo, New York.

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