K. Battersby. Viking, 2021
TROUBLE has no trouble addressing prejudice in a gentle and humorous fashion.
Squirrel does not plan to invite their new neighbour over for tea–it’s a bear, after all! Squirrel has seen bears on TV and must protect their darling Chamomile from his terrible teeth, knife-like claws and huge horrifying hungers. Battersby’s horizontal split-panels cleverly show the reader that all of Squirrel’s preconceived notions of a bear do not fit the description of their new neighbour, a gentle soul whose hungers are satisfied by chocolate chip cookies.
Squirrel’s overreactions culminate in the unnecessary rescue of Chamomile from Bear’s home, teapot a-swinging! When Squirrel sees Bear knitting and Chamomile playing with the ball of yarn, Squirrel realizes that the only trouble lies only with them.
One must suspect from Battersby’s book dedication that her own friendship that formed over tea and cookies sparked the finale of TROUBLE. As Bear and Squirrel get to know each other readers will be spurred to boil their kettles and settle down to read TROUBLE again. It takes multiple readings to fully savor the whimsical details in the mixed media illustrations (e.g. Bear’s bunny slippers) and exceptional picture book text (e.g. listen for the internal rhyme!).
The endpapers, consisting of pictures of real teapots and cookie jars, make this picture book good to the last drop.