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Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Grudge Keeper, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Peachtree, 2014. $20.95 ages 5 and up

"When Big Otto stomped on
Lily Belle's new shoes at the
spring fling, she limped off to
Cornelius and flung her
accusations at his feet.

As time went by, all the
grudges piled up. They
filled the fireplace. They
overflowed the tub."

I think young readers are going to love this story; they may even learn a lesson without really knowing that they are. Mara Rockliff introduces us to the people of Bonnyripple by letting us know that they hold no grudges against any other person in their village. All I can say is that it is lucky for them that Cornelius is a old, kind, thoughtful villager who manages any grudges brought to him with aplomb and courtesy.

Of course, the others have no worries. When they get mad at someone, or have a bone to pick, they simply put it on a piece of paper, hand it over to Cornelius and he is expected to deal with it for them. Cornelius is their Grudge Keeper; it is some task. He catalogs each grumble, grouse, quibble, peeve and complaint. His house is filled to the rafters with the inane complaints of everyone in town.

When a storm blows up a huge wind that manages to dismantle Cornelius' home, the villagers quickly come to his rescue. As they offer help, they take note of the many grudges that he has been housing for them. As they read what they have written, they recognize how silly they all seem. Together, they begin the work of repairing old wounds, leaving Cornelius without work and happy to be so:

"Tiffs and huffs, squabbles and quibbles - all the grudges
 had been tossed away, down to the last small scrap of pique.
Not a single grudge remained."

A lesson wrapped in wonderful language, with the feel of a folktale, this book is sure to be a repeat read for your young listeners. Read it once, and then read it again yourself. Be sure you take a very close look at the residents and setting created by Eliza Wheeler. With each trip through its pages, you will notice the many fine details she has created to enhance the storytelling. Ms. Wheeler uses dip pens, India ink and watercolors to bring the villagers to glorious life. The quiet palette of gold and green add authenticity to its classic feel. It's a winner!

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