cover image SORRY


Jean Van Leeuwen, Marco Ventura, , illus. by Brad Sneed. . Penguin Putnam/Fogelman, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2261-3

Two angry men appear on the cover of this cautionary tale about holding a grudge. One glares. The other sullenly wears an overturned bowl of oatmeal on his head. These are Ebenezer and Obadiah, brothers who share a farm. In happy times, "Ebenezer cooked. Obadiah cleaned.... And in the evenings they both sat on the porch playing tunes—Ebenezer on his fiddle, Obadiah on his mouth organ." This comfortable routine continues until the day Obadiah mutters about "lumps" in Ebenezer's oatmeal, and Ebenezer dumps the breakfast on his sibling. Afterward, neither will apologize. Van Leeuwen (The Tickle Stories; Going West) matter-of-factly chronicles the twosome's preposterous breakup. Obadiah saws off his half of the house and drags it across a valley. Ebenezer builds a stone wall to separate his cornfield from his brother's orchard and milk cows. Both marry, have children and grow old without saying "sorry." Their stubbornness is astonishing and sad. Sneed (When the Fly Flew In...) creates watercolor images in the style of Thomas Hart Benton's folklife canvases, with lanky farmers, Jersey cows and closely observed enamelware and quilts. Roller-coaster hillsides and furrows of plowed earth dance on the pages, and the artist often uses a muralist mode to show several moments within one spread. At long last, Ebenezer and Obadiah's great-grandsons meet and become friends. Still, regret permeates this unforgiving story of a needless feud, rendered in poignant detail. Ages 4-8. (May)