Other wordless friends:
“I imagined her at her closet, deciding what you’d wear to go learn something about your child that just might break your heart.”
— from We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
“She said it with just a hint of bitterness in her voice, enough that I could taste it, like a squeeze of lemon in a glass of milk.”
— from ‘Serendipity’ in the collection Flesh & Blood, by Michael Crummey
“She had no children and beautiful shoes in a range of colours, and each pair had its own matching bag.”
— from ‘The Green Road’, by Anne Enright
“It surprises me that he could have seen any delight in Toby Whittaker, an exhausted-looking young man who, after shaking hands, said not a word from first to last, but whose silence emitted a faint air of disaster and gin.”
— from ‘A Serious Widow’, by Constance Beresford-Howe
“Recently, everything around me felt familiar yet amiss, like the first time you ride in the back seat of your own car.”
— from Let the Northern Lights Erase your Name, by Vendela Vida
“The smoke in the dark looked like a dove that whispered the future to saints in paintings.”
— from Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Heather O’Neill
“Home was something that you could fit into a suitcase and move in a taxi for ten dollars.”
— from Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Heather O’Neill
“The mixture of cafe au lait and impatience was producing an exquisite vibration.”
— from Still Life, by Louise Penny
“The problem is he married a Pole. Turns out she doesn’t know her arse from her elbow. Doesn’t even keep Keen’s mustard on hand.”
— from Are you Ready to be Lucky?, by Rosemary Nixon
“That was the trouble with grown-ups: they always wanted to be the centre of attention, with their battering rams of food, and their sleep routines and their obsession with making you learn what they knew and forget what they had forgotten.”
— from Mother’s Milk, by Edward St. Aubyn
“They were not merely sentences but compressed moments that burst when you read them.”
— from the essay, ‘Thank you, Esther Forbes’, by George Saunders
More sentences here
“Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.” —Gertrude Stein “To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life.” — William Edward Hartpole Lecky, The Map of Life (1899)
“The constant remaking of order out of chaos is what life is all about, even in the simplest domestic chores such as clearing the table and washing the dishes after a meal…but when it comes to the inner world, the world of feeling and thinking, many people leave the dishes unwashed for weeks so no wonder they feel ill and exhausted.” — May Sarton, Recovering “I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the mind.” — Einstein
“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” — William Blake
“The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.” — Yutang Lin
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” — Iris Murdoch “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.“ — Rainer Maria Rilke
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” — Gandhi
“I once thought it was not worth sitting down for a time as short as [ten minutes]; now I know differently and, if I have ten minutes, I use them, even if they bring only two lines, and it keeps the book alive.” —Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms
“Do not hurry; do not rest.” — Goethe
“Never hurry, never worry.” — Charlotte’s Web
Now go eat some chocolate. (see Iris Murdoch instruction above)
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour does pretty much what I like a book to do, it makes me hungry for cake and tea and cheese and adventures with a tablecloth; for another cat or two. (She has sixteen and no complaints at her end.) In fact the cats play a huge role in this gorgeous collection of sweet but not in any way saccharine stories. On the contrary, there’s much authorly humour, of the kind that allow two levels of reading: adult and child. Both will be amused but at different things.
We begin with an introduction to the lovely Miss Petitfour by way of an illustration “…just to be sure you recognize her”. (And is it just me or does she look a little like the also-clever-but-in-a-very-different-line-of-work, Tabatha Southey?) By the way, Emma Block’s colour illustrations throughout are a pleasure to contemplate all on their own and, in fact, the whole book feels a little like a kind of petitfour… beautifully made with tea and pastry endpapers, a fixed ribbon marker, the kind of smooth semi-gloss pages your hands happily glide over and over and the whole thing just the right size for holding comfortably with one hand, leaving the other available for tea drinking, cake noshing or petting of resident kitty. Because after reading this you may have to get at least one.
The opening story takes Miss P. and her sixteen cats on an outing to find marmalade. This naturally includes a visit to a bookshop, which is cleverly divided, as all book shops should be, into two sides, marked ‘ho-hum’, and ‘hum’… that is, one side for people who prefer “books where nothing ever happens” and the other for people who feel the need to “visit another planet, or to run away to sea to meet pirates, or to fall down holes, or to be blasted by a volcano, and that sort of thing.”
Wind plays a role, as wind ought. (Miss P. has a good command of air currents generally, a characteristic missing in most protagonists.)“It is often the case that the wind is not blowing in the right direction. This is just another tiresome fact of life, like the fact that your feet grow too big for your favorite shoes, or that your favorite crayon gets shorter and shorter the more you use it.”
In the story ‘Birthday Cheddar’, my personal favourite, we go in search of Minky’s gift (she’s a “snow-pawed cat,” who fancies cheese). Correction, not merely fancies… “… she adored cheese, flirted with it, danced with it and brought it lovely presents, like pebbles from the garden, before devouring it with her little Minky teeth.” There follows a description of how Parmesan affects the leaves of a salad and how, on cheese toast, the “cheddar melted into every little crevice and crater…” And that’s just for starters. The whole passage is delicious. And then, because we aren’t happy/hungry enough, Michaels lists ten or so varieties of cheese. Minky of course has a cheese calendar that she sleeps with on which “Each month there was a big picture of a different kind of cheese in a mouthwatering pose: blue cheese cavorting with pears, cheddar laughing with apples, Gruyere lounging with grapes, Edam joking with parsley.” (Oh how I covet this calendar!)
Lessons on the art of storytelling are a brilliant thread throughout in highlighted, upper-case or bold type. Michaels points to words and phrases such as ‘unbelievably’, ‘by great good fortune’ and ‘by chance’, etc., revealing them as the devices they are to change the course of the story. And then she uses them to do just that. And then she might digress, telling us (in parenthesis) that this is a digression. It’s all so beautifully, tongue-in-cheekily done, like the ways of a favourite eccentric teacher.
So, yes, this is one seriously charming, creative and really quite perfect kid book (recently and somewhat reluctantly passed on to my niece) that any adult will easily love. Impossible to meet Miss Petifour, to travel with her in this tablecloth riding, tea drinking, food-filled land where you are encouraged (by Miss Petitfour herself) to hear only the parts of sentences you like the sound of… and not come away feeling just a bit lighter for it.
“Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened. Like the adventure of sharpening your pencil to a perfect point, just before it breaks and that little bit gets stuck in the sharpener.”
One flaw, and that’s the unfortunate and (always) annoying use of U.S. spelling. Flavor. Color. Etc. Boo to that.
Three thumbs up to everything else.