Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock

Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock
Bill Peet ~ Houghton Mifflin, 1973

Since getting into collecting children's books for my son, I've grown to have a love-hate relationship with Bill Peet, the one-time Disney animator who's style is best seen in films like The Jungle Book and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Lots of you might disagree, but as an adult, I wasn't immediately taken by his stuff. I first ended up with a copy of Chester the Worldly Pig, and it early-on it proved to be my least favorite read-aloud book. Not really sure why, but whatever the exact aversion, it wasn't until I ran into this old childhood favorite that I began to go back and reevaluate Peet's work. And you know what? The dude wasn't half bad. D'uh. In fact, he was actually pretty dang awesome.

His stories are a little wacky and his drawings do have a crude, unfinished quality, but these aspects of his work that originally put me off are now starting to win me over. I was quite literally mad about Prewitt when I was young. I loved this book, and my son who is animal-boy (and of late has become the more specifically bird-boy) adores it, as well. They might not be the prettiest books or the most lovely drawings in the world of children's literature, but they are wildly imaginative and a hoot to read.

So there is this peacock, see, with an ugly, nothing of a tail, until one day...

One day he noticed that the eyespots had doubled in size, and fierce black eyebrows had sprouted just above them. And yet that was not the end of his tail. It continued to feather out. Before long a jagged mouth appeared just below the enormous eyes. Then finally out sprang a pair of feathery arms with wildly clutching claws. "My tail has gone wild!" exclaimed Prewitt. "It's turned into a green-eyed monster!"

Honestly, Prewitt's tail did scare the crap out of me when I was young, yet it was because of that spookiness that I always returned to it. Bill Peet is alright in my book... finally. (Pardon the dingy cover. This is my original childhood copy, sans book jacket.)

Also by:
Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure
No Such Things


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ittybittybirdy said...

what an imagination that guy had! A monster at the end of a peacock tail! I guess what I like about Peet is that he offered the world a huge variety of work. I'm a little sad that so many wonderful writers and illustrators only published one or two books. Peet has an incredible body of work. Not all of it was great but he studied his art... and that means something to me. Now a days just about anybody thinks they can write an illustrate a children's book.

Sarah F said...

I'm so glad you posted about Bill Peet. I especially like Hubert's Hair Raising Adventure and Kermit the Hermit. I reckon the best ones have rhyming text - some of the non rhyming ones are not as much fun to read aloud. We have quite a collection in spite of the books not having a distributor here in Australia any more. Thank goodness for Amazon! Anyway my kids love Bill Peet and so do I!

Burgin Streetman said...

thanks for the comments guys. i am glad I've been converted!

rachael said...

haha...that illustration is really wonderful...what a creative mind the writer has!

Janna said...

Ohhh I forgot about this until now! I don't know why because it was one of my favorites.

Stacie said...

I loved Bill Peet as a kid! One year at our church Christmas party, Santa came to visit and he gave me a copy of "Smokey", and my sister received "How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head". I never really realized how many other books of his are out there! Lovely blog by the way... having a great time discovering some great new favorites!

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