Wednesday, September 30, 2015

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Percival Priggs by Julie-Anne Graham


Percival Priggs seems to be the perfect child. His parents are perfect, his grandparents are perfect, and even his pets are perfect. Percy’s shelf is packed with gleaming trophies. But with all the practice and preparation needed for his competitions, Percy never has a free moment.

Percy worries that his parents will not love him if he does not smile his prize-winning smile and perform perfectly in every competition. But after his rocket experiment turns into an imperfect mess, Mr. and Mrs. Priggs reveal their own funny imperfections and show Percy they are proud of him exactly as he is.

The message of reassurance and acceptance in THE PERFECT PERCIVAL PRIGGS is timely in our age of helicopter parenting, overscheduling, and increased testing standards for young children. But it is debut author Julie-Anne Graham’s fresh art style that truly sets the book apart. A former fashion designer with a love of textiles, Graham has built on each page a collage of textured patterns and drawn characters, adding humor and a world of detail to the Priggs’ home and story.


In this era of busyness and running from one activity or responsibility to another, The Perfect Percival Priggs is a very timely story.  I found that I could relate to Percival very well in his stretch for perfection.  And while he has won many awards for many things, he admits to himself and finally his parents that he doesn't particularly like doing any of those things (science, playing instruments, etc.).  But he feels the need to follow in his parents footsteps and keep winning.  But when one such attempt goes dramatically (and humorously) wrong, he reveals his insecurities to his parents.  What I really loved about the book was the parents reaction to Percy's mess.  Instead of scolding or criticizing him, they show him some of their failures and let him go his own way after he confesses that he doesn't enjoy the things he has spent so much of his time perfecting.  It's fun to see Percy at the end doing things he enjoys and clearly much happier than he was before.  While the illustrations don't particularly grab me, in fact the Priggs look kind of odd to be honest, but the expressions are revealing and the use of paper covered with words for the character's heads seemed to symbolize the power of our thoughts to lead us down different roads.  A thought-provoking and enjoyable book bound to lead to great discussions of strengths and weaknesses and the power of persistence as well as the importance of focusing our energies on the things that are of most importance to us. 

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