AUTHOR: Caryll Houselander
ILLUSTRATOR: Tomie DePaola
PUBLISHED BY: Holiday House
I have re-written the first sentence of this review about 15 times. I don't know where to begin. I am so in love with this book, but I'm afraid my enthusiasm for it will not do it justice--because it is actually a quietly triumphant book, not a "shout from the rooftops" book. Petook is like the gentle blossoming of spring--when the world wakes up and suddenly it is Easter! It is like that first quiet "Alleluia" whispered on Easter Morning. It is sublimely joyful, as well as accessible and immediate.
Tomie dePaola (I love him, have I mentioned?) had long admired the work of the English mystic Caryll Houselander (I love her too, have I mentioned?). Working with his wonderful publisher, Holiday House, he created this picture book based off one of her Children's stories, Petook. Petook is a fine rooster, a proud new father. One day a boy (Christ) comes to his yard, and watches as Petook's wife, Martha, gathers her chicks under her wing.
In a note to readers, DePaola betrays his primary motive for illustrating this Houselander tale--because it "breathes new life into the age old symbol of the Easter egg." While this isn't the best reason to treasure this sublime book, its a good one. The Easter egg is not a secular symbol--it is a Christian one, and one that has lost much of its meaning. In Petook DePaola and Houselander cherish these symbols--and the joyful reality of new life--thus transcending their simple story and pointing always to that glorious morning when our Hope was fulfilled.