cover image The Un-Wedding

The Un-Wedding

Babette Cole. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-679-88898-7

Cole is not the shy type. Her Drop Dead cheerfully explored mortality, and her Bad Good Manners Book took a dubious view of etiquette. This picture book, whose cover shows a boy and girl slicing a black-frosted wedding cake down the middle, tells readers that certain couples are happier apart. ""Demetrius and Paula Ogglebutt were two perfectly beautiful children... but... they had two problem parents who could never agree about anything."" Diagrams of the family manor, offering peeks into every window, show crazy in-laws, odd pets and dissimilar artistic tastes inspiring ugly fights. Inside the Ogglebutt estate, the Mr. and Mrs. glare at one another down a long supper table and devise cruel pranks (""She hid a present from one of his cows in his cap! And he boiled her underwear until it shrank!""). The blond and angelic Paula and Demetrius blame themselves. But when they call a meeting at school for ""anyone with problem parents,"" a horde arrives. Cole reassures her audience that adults sometimes act ""like five-year-olds."" Yet her giddy response, an ""un-wedding"" performed by an agreeable minister and followed by ""separate un-honeymoons,"" does not adequately solve the Ogglebutts' dilemma. In a fanciful finale, the siblings build side-by-side houses for their parents, ""connected by a secret tunnel."" Such a solution works metaphorically, but Cole denies the worry and confusion that attend separation. She never once uses the word ""divorce."" Ages 6-12. (Apr.)