cover image MRS. BIDDLEBOX


Linda Smith, , illus. by Marla Frazee. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028690-3

Gloomy feelings don't stand a chance in this snappy picture book about a woman who kicks a "dreary little funk" with her can-do spirit. When Mrs. Biddlebox wakes up "on the wrong side of her bunk," the morning looks gray: "The birds gave her a headache./ There were creakies in her chair." With only some bitter tea and some hard-to-chew crumpets for breakfast, Mrs. Biddlebox quickly decides to set things to rights the best way she knows: "I will cook this rotten morning/ I will turn it into cake!" Her off-the-cuff recipe calls for whisking the dark and dull—clouds, fog and all—into a great pot before shaping it into a crumbly delight. Satiated by her sweet treat, Mrs. Biddlebox toddles off for a restful night's sleep. In the rhyming text inspired by the late Smith's (When Moon Fell Down) battle with cancer, positive thinking prevails, setting off a satisfying chain of events. The jaunty rhythm of Smith's words captures the energy of her protagonist's out-of-the-box thinking and sheer determination. Young readers may well come away with a new zeal for their own endeavors. Frazee (The Seven Silly Eaters) uses pencil lines and cross-hatching to dramatic effect in depicting Mrs. Biddlebox's dark surroundings. Swirls of white and spindly gold-yellow let the sun in at just the right moment. Memorable scenes include a spread featuring the ample-bottomed baker dancing around the oven, her frizzy pigtail bopping along. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)