cover image HUMBLE PIE


Jennifer Donnelly, , illus. by Stephen Gammell. . Atheneum/Jackson, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84435-5

Theo has earned a village-wide reputation for being greedy and grabby. While the locals all have theories about the root of the problem, Theo's grandmother knows the true cause: he is spoiled rotten. Grandmother also knows the only cure is a heaping helping of humble pie—a gigantic concoction that she happens to be preparing. She mixes Theo in with the fruit filling and covers it with crust, and not even Theo's worst tantrums get him out. Finally, when he rolls—still inside the pie—into a nearby village of starving people, the boy gets a taste of what it means to be compassionate. Debut author Donnelly gamely offers rhythmic turns of phrase ("Theo howled and yowled and thumped and bumped over rocks and ruts and branches") but her shapely prose does not disguise the didactic flavor of an old-fashioned morality tale. In addition, her examples of what constitutes spoiling—a plump featherbed, a soft tunic, a warm coverlet—are a stretch. The illustrations, however, convey an impish sense of fun that will have young readers happily following along and cheering for Theo's comeuppance. In Gammell's (Song and Dance Man) signature style, wispy colored-pencil and watercolor compositions alternate between shadowy black-brown hues and a palette bursting with rainbow brightness. Anchored in Old World details, his interpretations add dramatic punch and leavening along with a healthy dash of humor. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)