Okay, I have one thing to say about this book: Read it. Â If you have a kid, read it to him/her. Â If you don’t, read it anyway. Â I’m thirty-something-years old, and I’m discovering it for the first time, and all I can think of — besides how fabulous it is — is how much I wish it had been in my life when I was a kid. Â Yes, it’s that good.
Pickle-Chiffon Pie was first published in 1967, and it has recently been reissued by Purple House Press, which reprints great kids’ classics. Â The illustrations in this book are absolutely fabulous. They have a certain look, that happy, charming late-sixties-look that you just don’t find in kids’ illustrations anymore. Â They are intricate and colorful, whimsical and lively. Â Just looking at them makes me happy.
And the story? Â It’s utterly delightful. Â There is a king who has a beautiful daughter, and many men want to marry her. Â So the king takes the three nicest Â suitors — the buff Prince Musselbaum, the bookish Prince Wellred (don’t you love those names?), and the plain but sincere Prince Bernard Â — and gives each of them a task: Go into the forest for three days and find the most unusual and wonderful and marvelous thing you can, and bring it back. Â Whoever brings back the most wonderful thing will win the hand of the Princess.
So they do, and in the forest, there are many strange and wonderful things — a lion in a velvet vest juggling cans of root beer soup, an ogre so ugly that he scares leaves off of the trees, a giant with a green beard who plays “Chopsticks” on two tiny pianos. Â And each prince makes his selection and heads home, sure that he will win the contest. Â But Prince Bernard’s selection — a Three-nosed Snozzle who can bake the king’s favorite Pickle-Chiffon Pie — is simply not happy to go. Â He’s very sad about leaving the forest and his children, who have no one else to look after them. Â Bernard drags him along for a while, but then has to stop and reflect on his own actions. Â Is it right for him, Bernard, to take this Snozzle away if he desperately wants to stay at home?
I won’t give away the ending, though it does end happily for all parties. Â And it has a pretty deep message, too, one that applies to everyone everywhere. Â Bernard has to wrestle with his conscience and with some thorny questions — is it okay to prioritize your own happiness above someone else’s? Â Is it okay to pursue your own heart’s desire if it means hurting someone else in the process? Â And what’s great is that these questions fit so naturally into the narrative; there’s nothing pedantic about the story at all.
I honestly can’t think of a better book to teach children the value of empathy, or of putting themselves into someone else’s shoes for a while. Â I don’t think these qualities come instinctively to young kids, who are known to grab the best toy in the bunch and try to keep everyone else from playing with it. Â But kids need to become aware that our actions have a ripple effect, and that it’s important to consider how our Â choices will impact others. Â (Heck, this is a lesson that many CEOs could stand to learn.) Â And I can’t think of a Â better vehicle for conveying it than this book — this engaging, delightful book, whose profound message is packaged in charming pictures and playful prose. Â It’s a gem, in every way.
I’ll be giving this book to Matthew for his birthday, and believe me: it’ll be hard to wait that long. But at least he’ll be discovering it at the tender age of five, instead of waiting thirty-plus years like his mom. Â And I can say with confidence that his childhood — Â heck, his whole life — is going to be happier with this book in it.
It’s that good.
Pickle-Chiffon Pie, written and illustrated by Jolly Roger Bradfield. Â (Check out the author’s website for more about him and his works.) Â To read more about the Spiritual Books series of posts, click here.