Marirosa Mia: Mrs Biddlebox is having a bad day. A really bad day. (Alexander of the no good, very bad day would sympathize.) But then she comes up with the most ingenious idea! She'll bake the day into a delicious treat. So goes Linda Smith's MRS. BIDDLEBOX. My hair twin, Mrs. Biddlebox is quite the assertive lady. Nothing will stop her from enjoying the day. Not the thick fog - wonderfully drawn by Marla Frazee - that curtains the hill she lives on, or the incessantly creaking chair she sits on! Julie what did you enjoy about this picture book?
Julie: I love that the pictures are both very funny and, for much of the book, gloomily atmospheric. I love that the day is dark and the night (when Mrs. Biddlebox is in better spirits) lets in the light. I love Mrs. Biddlebox's facial expressions. I love that her sidekick is a goose. And the language is so fun! Her "belly [was] full of grumbles"; an idea "whizzled from her lips"; she "stomped ... with witchety delight." That list could go on and on. The entire text is marvelous. And it rhymes! I'm often a big grump when it comes to rhyming picture books. I don't like authors' hemming themselves in with rhyme, prioritizing it over story. But I didn't mind the rhyme in MRS. BIDDLEBOX. I'm debating whether it even enhanced the book. What do you think, Mia?
M: I'm actually quite a fan of rhyming, but only when it's done right. Because then it can be so very magical, as it was with MRS.BIDDLEBOX. I think the rhyming added a bit of witchy delight to the tale, and I very much enjoyed the spirit and fun in this book and its main character and her companion. I was also quite taken with the whimsy and atmosphere of the illustrations--so much so that I started thinking of possible adaptations of the story! I think it would work great as a stop motion picture (hint hint to filmmakers out there).
J: Yes, there's magic in the illustrations and the rhyme. I'm going to quote from the start of the book now, to let our readers judge for themselves:
On a grubby little hill,
in a dreary little funk,
Mrs. Biddlebox rolled over
on the wrong side of her bunk.
The birds gave her a headache.
There were creakies in her chair.
A breeze blew dank and dreary
and mussied up her hair.
So she slammed the door on morning!
And sat thinking what to do.
Her tea was dark and bitter,
her crumpets hard to chew.
The illustration that accompanies that last paragraph is so funny! Mrs. Biddlebox does NOT look like a tea-and-crumpets woman! For a terrific and illuminating interview with illustrator Marla Frazee about the creation of the book's art, follow this link: cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2007/09/illustrator-interview-marla-frazee-on.html. There's a particularly touching description of how she decided on the final scenes for the book. She concludes, "When strong emotions fuel the creative process, it is always, always, always a good thing for the book." So true!