Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Clamorous Calamity

Your best of what you do best has been done all day long.  The last little bit of light bows, ushering in twilight.  All the items on your mental checklist have been completed.  You look forward to a nice, long rest.

Without warning a sound shatters your solitude.  Bustling bat wings, what's that?  Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep (Creston Books, April 12, 2016) written by Robin Newman (The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery) with illustrations by Chris Ewald introduces readers to a clever, rather charming, witch with a dilemma demanding her undivided attention.

There's a little-known secret about Hildie Bitterpickles.  She needs her sleep.

As regular as sunrise and sunset Hildie runs through her bedtime routine.  Snuggled, cozy and comfortable with her cat, Clawdia, she is rudely disturbed.  A new arrival in the neighborhood is raising a ruckus.  A fee-fi-fo- fum friend from the land of fairy is operating an elevator of the vegetable variety.

With a quick exit and an equally quick return, she puts an end to the noise but low and behold, it's back the next night with a new addition.  You-know-who living in a shoe with a horde of guys and gals has moved in next door.  There is no slumber for Hildie as they engage in their favorite pastime during the darkest hours hitting home runs against the side of her residence.

A wolf with exceedingly bad aim misses the mark on the new pigs' place and Hildie finds herself without a roof over her head.  At her wit's end, Hildie has to locate somewhere else to live.  Monty, the real estate rat, does his best to accommodate her demands.

Nursery rhyme characters create a commotion in one new abode after the other.  In a quirk of fate Hildie finds it necessary to use the previously mentioned cleverness and consummate charm.  A little bit of mix-and-match hocus-pocus may bring about the solution our weary witch is seeking.

Like her created character Hildie, Robin Newman weaves a masterful spell with words.  Employing a classic and much-proven storytelling technique of events in threes she forms a cadence, a sense of expectation, for her readers.  An extra layer of rhythm is supplied with the repetition of a key phrase which welcomes us all to participate.  More fun is found in the onomatopoeia of noisy neighbor characters from well-known folklore.  Here is a sample passage.

"I need a quiet house," said Hildie.  "WITHOUT NEIGHBORS!"
"You've come to the right rat!" said Monty.  He scampered through his files.
"This farmhouse with three blind mice seems promising."
"Are they quiet mice?" asked Hildie.
"Quiet as church mice!"
Hildie and Clawdia move in.

The atmospheric front of the book case with a worried-looking Hildie searching for help by reading, her trusty cauldron and potion-filled flask next to her, will cause readers' curiosity to heighten.  You can already see evidence of the attention to detail provided by Chris Ewald, debut picture book illustrator, in the placement of the tiny cobwebs.   On the back, to the left of the opened case, are a blurb and two recommendations above a sleeping Clawdia underneath Hildie's hat.

The opening endpapers depict a close-up view of Hildie's magical work space, glass vessels, a closed and open book in her own handwriting with a drawing, a skull and a tail belonging to an unknown creature.  The closing endpapers reveal the results of Hildie's ingenuity.  Ewald shifts his image sizes to enhance the text while enveloping readers in every fantastical and funny moment.

There are single pages, edge to edge, double-page pictures, edge to edge, two smaller images with elements extending into the other visual and small groupings framed in white space with a color palette reflective of the time of day.  Perspective is altered also to increase the intensity of a selected scene.  Readers will find themselves pausing at every page turn to notice all the extra items Ewald has included; a cow clinging to a crescent moon, classic flamingo yard ornaments in front of the shoe house, the hip old woman has vivid green tennis balls on her walker, the dish and spoon grinning as they sit on a cabinet in Hildie's house and Humpty Dumpty (as a mover) wearing two band-aides on his forehead.  The facial expressions on all the characters are the crowning comedic glory.

One of my favorite pictures is when Hildie and Clawdia have moved into a cottage with a bunch of black sheep, supposedly quiet.  By the glow of candlelight they are crowding into the room with our duo, all wanting to sleep in the same bed.  The expression on Hildie's face and the placement of Clawdia's paws tell a tale all their own.  Someone who has lost her sheep is peering in the window.

Look for knowing nods from listeners as Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep written by Robin Newman with illustrations by Chris Ewald is read aloud; famous fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters replete in the narrative and images.   Get ready for bursts of laughter and requests for read it again. Have a witch's hat handy and a friendly black cat for company.

To learn more about both Robin Newman and Chris Ewald and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. By following this link you can access another site maintained by Robin Newman.   For a peek at one of the two-page images access the publisher's website.  Robin Newman is a guest at KidLit TV in an interview loaded with information and activity ideas.  Here is the link to a twelve page teacher's guide for Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep.  Enjoy the videos!


  1. Margie, Thank you so much for this wonderful review. It made my day!

    1. You are welcome, Robin. I am looking forward to sharing Hildie with my kindergarten class tomorrow. Thank you for bringing Hildie into the kidlit world.