Little Petunia (from A Pet for Petunia) would much rather be an animal than a human girl, a preference that she expresses by wearing a tiger tail, roaring at passersby, and pleading with her parents for a cave in which to live. As a compromise, she offers to be their pet, an offer that provokes a page-long parental lecture: “No, you may NOT! Where did you get such an idea? Of all the crazy things! That is NOT how nice little girls behave.” Feeling completely misunderstood, Petunia addresses a packing box to Africa and climbs in, only to have second thoughts when she overhears her mother singing in the kitchen (“Tigers did not sing, thought Petunia. Or tickle at bedtime, neither”), and she decides to stay—but saves the box for moments when she needs a “wild place of her own.” Although the ending is a bit anticlimactic, Petunia’s desire for wildness will be easily understood by kids who have similar trouble containing themselves, and her parents’ overreaction to her behavior will likely resonate with obstreperous youngsters as well.
They’ll also be tickled by her actions, especially when “Petunia, wearing no more than a smile, bathed in a mud puddle.” Schmid’s cheerful, minimalist illustrations (dark pencil occasionally accented with golden orange and periwinkle watercolor) feature scribbly lines in a childlike style against lots of white space. Petunia is irrepressibly jaunty in her striped dress and tiger tail, and she’s as endearing as she is excessive.