What Is a Wise Bird Like You Doing in a Silly Tale Like This?

Overview

A healthy dose of nonsense from the Caldecott medalist

Uri Shulevitz has taken on the tricky task of weaving several nonsensical stories together into one picture book, and the result is both magical and hilarious. Set in the empire of Pickleberry, which boasts a population of 26 1/2 citizens, the tales revolve around a parrot named Lou, the emperor, his twin brother the janitor/ambassador, a traveling salesman, and a bear who loses his tail as a result of an earthquake caused ...

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Overview

A healthy dose of nonsense from the Caldecott medalist

Uri Shulevitz has taken on the tricky task of weaving several nonsensical stories together into one picture book, and the result is both magical and hilarious. Set in the empire of Pickleberry, which boasts a population of 26 1/2 citizens, the tales revolve around a parrot named Lou, the emperor, his twin brother the janitor/ambassador, a traveling salesman, and a bear who loses his tail as a result of an earthquake caused when the invisible half-citizen of Pickleberry dropped a saucer. Confused? That's the point. But behind the delightful absurdity are a few dollops of wisdom. Incorporating collage in his buoyant pictures, Uri Shulevitz continues to show himself as one of the major innovators and most talented author/illustrators in the field of children's books.

Relates the doings of the Emperor of Pickleberry and his ingenious talking bird Lou.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this engaging bit of frippery, Shulevitz takes a walk on the nonsensical side, concocting a tall tale about the inhabitants of Pickleberry. The Emperor and his twin brother, the janitor, share the kingdom with 26 and a half citizens ("The half was an invisible fellow with a big mustache whom everyone knew and who spoke in half words") and a talking bird named Lou ("a genius of a bird"). Fed exotic delicacies such as "caramel crisp with tamatar, badam, shalgam, zafran, mari, curry, and adrak," Lou is treated better than the Emperor's brother, who is eventually made "part-time ambassador for extraordinary missions" and sent shopping in a faraway land. He runs into Lou's Aunt Millie, who helps Lou escape, triggering a series of events that winds up with a tale-within-a-tale as Lou regales his aunt with the story of how the janitor got the best of his greedy brother. The silliness referenced in the title reigns supreme here; with a nod to Lear, the author squeezes pleasure out of invented words and tongue twisters, often with a visual twist (such as images of the half-citizen throwing down his half cup's invisible saucer and causing an earthquake). Shulevitz's sunny watercolors range from beautifully detailed vignettes to puckish cartoons (including a picture of the "National Dessert--Pickle Pudding" on the endpapers), ratcheting up the enjoyment factor. Ages 4-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In the imaginary Empire of Pickleberry live the Emperor, his twin brother¾a janitor, the Emperor's talking bird¾Lou, and twenty-six and a half citizens. The half-citizen lives on the border between Pickleberry and Cackleberry. Shulevitz weaves several stories into one humorous one. His absurd, tongue-in-cheek humor is most engaging. Coupled with his delightfully busy, cartoon-like illustrations, this story is certain to appeal to most child readers. Children will want to carefully examine the subtle, intricate details in each illustration. The map of Pickleberry and the national symbols of the Empire on the endpapers are delightful. Although no obvious curriculum connections can be made, the book would be a wonderful introduction to creative writing and should be introduced to children. 2000, Farrar Straus and Giroux, $16.00. Ages 8 to 10. Reviewer: J. B. Petty
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Two stories within a story add up to a delicious romp from this versatile author/illustrator. The village of Pickleberry consists of four-and-a-half acres of land and a population of 26 and a half (the half citizen resides on the border between Pickleberry and neighboring Cackleberry). The Emperor of Pickleberry has a twin brother, a janitor whose sage advice he routinely ignores. The ruler also has a talking bird named Lou, renowned for his intelligence, with whom he consults daily on matters of state. However, Lou is unhappy about being confined in a cage until he uses his wits (and the clever advice of his Aunt Millie) to escape. Alas, he falls into the clutches of a greedy salesman who calculates the value of a talking bird but loses his chance to cash in while listening to Lou's convoluted nonsense tale. Free at last, he joins Aunt Millie and begins at the beginning with another account, this of a man who had twin sons, one destined to become the emperor and the other a janitor whose cunning gains for him their father's coveted candlestick. Shulevitz's wacky tale is told both through traditional text and dialogue balloons abounding in sly wit. The art is a visual feast, varying in format and scale from full-page illustrations to multiple vignettes, drenched in blues, greens, golds, and ochers. Richly textured, stylized drawings feature tiny details that add to the fun. This is a book to pore over, relish, and enjoy again and again.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The much-honored Shulevitz (Snow, 1998, etc.) presents a glorious farrago of good sense and nonsense woven through several linked trickster tales. He matches a hard-to-summarize array of stories-within-stories to scenes of richly dressed noodleheads flying through the air or tottering about unstable-looking landscapes while sporting tall, silly hats and confused expressions. Subjects involve a glib-talking bird who repeatedly escapes captivity; the greedy Emperor of Pickleberry (Pop. 26 ½); his twin brother, who is also the palace janitor; a certain candlestick; a bear in a barrel; and much, much more. Though the general atmosphere is distinctly Chelmish—Shulevitz adapts stories learned from his mother for parts of this—beneath all the loopy logic and kaleidoscopic plotting is a pointed celebration of the triumph of wit over power. Nonetheless, readers who prefer tidy beginning-middle-end tales with clear lessons had best steer clear. (Picture book. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374383008
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/13/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 520L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 10.77 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Uri Shulevitz is the author and/or illustrator of many books, including The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome, the 1969 Caldecott Medal Book, and Snow, a 1999 Caldecott Honor Book. He lives in New York City.
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