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Kitchen Table Reviews: Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie

By Mir Kamin | March 20 , 2009
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<i>Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie</i> by Norton Juster
Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie by Norton Juster

This week I discovered Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie at the bottom of a box of books, and realized that the gnomes in our house (you know, the ones who take things and put them back in the wrong place) have been at it again. But it was a serendipitous find after months of wondering where it had gone, so we elected to sit down together and do a read-aloud. Norton Juster (of The Phantom Tollbooth fame) spins quite a tale, and Chris Raschka’s colorful, free-form illustrations are the icing on the cake.

Our intrepid narrator has a little problem; sometimes she’s Sourpuss, and sometimes she’s Sweetie Pie. Her grandparents aren’t very fond of Sourpuss, but she can’t help it—sometimes that’s who she is.

Our family immediately connected with this book.

Me: Wow, does the girl in this book remind you of anyone?
Daughter: Meeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Son: Her. Definitely.
Me: So does that mean you liked it?
Son: I liked it because it was really funny. One second she’s happy and nice, and the next second she’s having a fit.
Daughter: I liked it because no matter how rotten she is, they love her anyway. And she’s trying to be good. She can’t help being Sourpuss sometimes.
Me: I see.
Daughter: Why are you looking at me like that?
Me: Nevermind. Okay, what did you think of the artwork?
Daughter: It was very [here she waved her hands around] kind of all over, like her. I thought it really showed how she felt.
Son: Yeah, except when she brings her Nanna that gift she made herself? I couldn’t tell what it was.

We stopped to examine that page in depth. We never did figure out what it was.

Me: What was your favorite part?
Daughter: When she was being Sourpuss and complaining about pieces in her orange juice and burnt toast. I would totally do that.
Son: I liked when she went from Sweetie Pie to Sourpuss so quickly in the tub, too. “That’s nice, Nanna… you’re pulling my hair, ouch!”
Me: How old do you think the girl in the book is?
Daughter: Maybe… 5?
Son: 4 or 5, definitely.
Husband [from the other room]: 11!
Daughter: Hey!!

(Note to self: Teach my daughter to use the phrase, “I resemble that remark.”)

Me: So overall? A good book for what ages?
Daughter: Maybe… 5 to 8?
Son: 4 to 9. I’m 9 and I liked it.
Me: I think it’s pretty good for anyone who’s ever been both a Sourpuss and a Sweetie Pie.

Not that we know anything about that, around here. Ahem.

Pros: Very true-to-life, in a hilarious way. Shows both frustration and unconditional love. Illustrations are well-suited to all of these displays of emotion.

Cons: Unrecognizable gift for Nanna. No solutions offered. My daughter won’t stop saying, “It’s a book about meeeeeeeeee!”

Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie gets three thumbs up (and several half-whispered parental prayers for strength) from our kitchen table.

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