Mrs Biddlebox by Linda Smith
by Linda Smith
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Topics: determination, overcoming difficulties
One dreary morning Mrs Biddlebox wakes up on the wrong side of her bunk:
The birds gave her a headache,
There were creakies in her chair.
A breeze blew dank and dreary
And mussed up her hair.
She slams the door on the morning and has a breakfast of bitter tea and hard crumpets, while she tries to figure out what to do. Then, with great determination and spunk:
I will cook this rotten morning!
I will turn it into cake!
I will fire up my oven!
I will set the day to bake!
Mrs Biddlebox (and her goose sidekick) get busy gathering "up the gloom". She grabs dirt and shadows, fog, and rays of sun, and even "rolled the sky like carpeting" and puts it all in a big pot. She makes a dough, bakes it for the rest of the day, then eats "a merry slice of cake" and then ends up eating the whole cake! Well-fed and cozy, she watches the stars and then falls asleep.
This imaginative and magical story of the witchy Mrs. Biddlebox making something good out of gloom is both dark and funny. There's no denying the reality that we all wake up on the wrong side of the bed and feel crummie. The dramatic swirling pencil illustrations support the rhyming text by starting out very dark --with the fog swirling in the window and the background almost completely dark. The scenes lighten as Mrs Biddlebox grabs at the gloom and there's a great scene of Mrs B. twirling fog onto her broomstick "like spaghetti". The drawings featuring Mrs B. making the dough with extreme gusto and dancing around the oven are hilarious, set against a white background, the gloom is gone and everything seems merry and light. Children and adults will be entranced by the intense and clever illustrations, the punchy narrative, and the determination of the very memorable Mrs. Biddlebox to get rid of the gloom.
Mrs Biddlebox came from author Linda Smith's battle with cancer. She died in 2000, but left behind this wonderful and uplifting story. She also wrote When Moon Fell Down.
Marla Frazee is the illustrator of many children's picture books including Harriet!You'll Drive Me Crazy! by Mem Fox. Her new board book Walk On: A Guide for Babies of All Ages is due out this spring.