The Grudge Keeper

Mara Rockliff, Author, Eliza Wheeler, Illustrator
Mara Rockliff, illus. by Eliza Wheeler. Peachtree, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56145-729-8
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Wheeler’s (Miss Maple’s Seeds) sure hand and lyrical pen-and-ink spreads are the source of this story’s charm. Long skirts billow, the fairy-tale cottage of Cornelius the Grudge Keeper leans sweetly to one side, and the white scraps of paper on which villagers have written their grudges billow and drift like sea foam. The story holds few surprises as the villagers discover that nursing grudges leads only to heartbreak, while forgiveness brings happiness. Rockliff’s (Me and Momma and Big John) rococo wordplay is an apt match for Wheeler’s artwork: “Ruffled feathers, petty suits, minor tiffs and major huffs, insults, umbrage, squabbles, dust-ups, and imbroglios—the Grudge Keeper received them all.” The clever prose is, at times, more likely to sail over the heads of younger readers and head for older members of the audience: “Low blows rested high up in the pile. High dudgeon had drifted down low.” In an effort to introduce a contemporary note into the traditional setting, Wheeler makes the romance between Big Otto and Lily Belle an interracial one. On the whole, it’s a sweet, fluffy diversion. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
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