MOTHER, YOU’RE THE BEST! (BUT SISTER, YOU’RE A PEST!),
by Diane deGroat (HarperCollins, 2008), 32 pp., ages 4-8
Back in October, I interviewed children’s author/illustrator Diane deGroat as part of Robert’s Snow: Blogging for a Cure. We had a lot of fun talking about her taxidermy collection, and she showed us how she created one of the pictures for her newest book about Gilbert the possum, Mother, You’re the Best! (But Sister, You’re a Pest!).
Published by HarperCollins and released this past March, this 11th title in the wildly popular Gilbert and Friends series of picture books (appropriate for ages 4-8), finds Gilbert longing to please his mother with a special gift. After burning the toast, spilling the cereal, and drenching his Mother’s Day card in orange juice, Gilbert takes breakfast upstairs to Mother, but his younger sister, Lola, is already there. He is jealous of Lola sitting on Mother’s lap, so he offers to take Lola to the store.
As the day unfolds, Gilbert ends up giving Lola a bath, and then reading to her at naptime — both attempts to keep Lola from absorbing all of Mother’s attention. At the end of the day, he discovers to his surprise that he has given Mother the gift she wanted most of all — some time to herself. And to sweeten the pot, he finally gets what he’s longed for all day — some time alone with her.
This story is endearing and heartfelt without being saccharine, and expresses well an older sibling’s longing for one-on-one parental attention. Buoyant watercolor illustrations draw the reader into Gilbert’s warm, cozy world of home, school, and neighborhood. A lovely addition to home or school libraries!
I asked Diane to share a favorite childhood recipe, and she sent me this:
PEACHES ON TOAST
fresh peaches (very ripe)
1. Peel and cut peaches into large chunks, removing pits and any brown spots. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Let sit until the sugar is dissolved and syrupy.
2. Spread margarine onto both sides of bread. Fry until browned and greasy.
3. Spoon some peaches over the hot bread, and eat it with a knife and fork.
**This recipe is also included in Writers in the Kitchen, compiled by Tricia Gardella (Boyds Mills Press, 1998). Diane offers this preface:
My mother regarded cooking as an unnecessary evil. Rheumatic fever in her childhood left her without a sense of smell or taste, which was helpful when changing diapers for five kids, but did nothing for the subtleties of food preparation. Her own personal diet consisted of Velveeta cheese with Ritz crackers and Pepsi spiked with Port wine; supper for the rest of us was usually hot dogs and burnt french fries, or meat loaf made from ground beef and oatmeal. Period. I know we had salt in the cabinet — we used it to melt ice on the front steps, but if we had anything like garlic or basil, it never found its way into the meat loaf.
Sometimes she made something delicious, like peaches on toast. It appeared whenever the market had a run on overripe peaches, which were free. I’ve made it with whole grain bread and Pam instead of margarine, but the original is still better.