If I had to pick a single favorite children’s author/illustrator, it would undoubtedly be Bill Peet. Since I was a kid, I’ve been in love with his style and his stories. Every character is given life and loving detail, even if just in the background. Even the scenery is given its own personality. A barn, windmill, or gnarly old tree all come to life in a Bill Peet book. When I was in elementary school, the school librarian would re-create pages from Peet’s books on large sheets of drawing paper and use them during storytime. They hooked me.
Once I had kids of my own, I fell in love with his books all over again. The memorable characters. The crayon coloring. The seemingly simple stories that actually carry deep emotional impact and weighty morals (for children’s books).
Thankfully, Zoey really enjoys them too.
Bill Peet worked as a writer for Walt Disney from the 1940s through the 60s, having a hand in several features, including Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, and The Sword in the Stone.
By the time he started writing and illustrating his own children’s books, he was already a master storyteller. Some of Peet’s books are straightforward prose, whereas others are rhyming verse. He handled both with ease. This title is an example of the latter. It’s hard to believe Hubert’s Hair-Raising Adventure was his first book (1959). The rhymes are so natural; the meter is so fluid. It’s just so easy to read and listen to. He already seems perfectly at home in these original worlds he’s creating.
Hubert the Lion was haughty and vain
And especially proud of his elegant mane.
But conceit of this sort isn’t proper at all
And Hubert the Lion was due for a fall.
In a nutshell, Hubert loses his entire mane, becomes bald, and falls into a depression. His jungle friends all try to console him and find a solution. But their “solution” results in swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. In short: too much hair. They now need to find another solution to another problem.
Verdict? So does this 55-year-old book hold up for kids today? You might think this story is about the danger of unchecked pride and self-conceit, but it’s not about that at all. It’s really about the true value of friendship and the importance of caring for others and liking yourself for who you are. Not at all bad things for kids to learn today. So, yes, I think this book holds up very well. We’re off to a great start.
“And besides,” he went on with a very smug smile,
“I always have wanted my own special style.
I’m prouder than ever and think you’ll agree
That there’s no other lion exactly like me.”