The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels is made to be read out loud. It is one-of-a-kind, full of wordplay, laughter, and adventures that are “just the right size—fitting into a single, magical day.” Miss Petitfour, a tall woman with “billowy hair that she wore all brushed up in a tumbling bun” likes to shake out her tablecloth and use it as a sail as she flies with her sixteen cats, running errands and having adventures around the village. She varies the tablecloth with the season and weather, and the neighbors are quite used to this mode of transport.
Thus Michaels introduces the wordplay and the mix of the magical and the ordinary into her tale. Miss Petitfour’s adventures are always enjoyable to read and enjoyable for her as she sails to briskly through the village and has to find a boat to set down on, mixes up the items in a jumble sale, chases a stamp through the village, and runs into trouble buying cheddar for one of her cats, Minky.
Michael’s doesn’t so much play with language as revel in it, spreading the words out like a feast and encouraging readers to gloat over them. I defy you not to read bits of it out loud, that is, if you’re not already reading the book to someone. Try not telling someone that
A digression is just like what happens when you’re walking to school: You stop to tie your shoelaces and notice the neighbor’s dog looking at you, and so you stop to give it a pat, and then you see the fence has started to fall down, and so you have to climb it just a little, and then you look up and realize the clouds are in the shape of pianos, and then, oh dear, you suddenly remember you were on your way to school and you have to run all the rest of the way so you won’t be late. That is a digression
Words like “eccentricity,” “gesticulating,” “perambulator,” or “meanwhile” and phrases like “Then one day” are lovingly discussed, used, and referred back to all through the story. These key words are playfully shown in different colors.
This is a gem of a book, and if you haven’t got a child to read it to, buy it anyway, for the sheer joy of it.
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour comes out Nov 3, 2015. Look for it on Amazon.