Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Perfect Percival Priggs written and illustrated by Julie-Anne Graham

My Kiddo had a teacher in 1st grade who seemed to demand perfection from her students.  She never really said anything about it, but one morning I could hear my Kiddo listing the names of the kids in her class and after each name, saying yes or no.  When I asked what she was doing, she told me that counting the kids the teacher thought were the best, and the kids she thought were not.

I had wondered where she has gotten her sudden perfection anxiety, and now I knew.  Somehow, in some subtle way, and without realizing it, the teacher had sent her students a message about her expectations.  It took a long time to get that early influence out of my Kiddo's head.  Just do your best was as far as I take striving for perfection.

Bur, wanting to be perfect is a real problem with kids these day (well, truth be told, it has always been a problem) and I wish I had a book like The Perfect Percival Priggs to give my Kiddo.  Luckily, today's parents to have it.

Young Percival struggles to be as perfect as his seemingly perfect, overachieving, competitive parents and grandparents.  They all have awards and degrees galore on their shelves.  So does Percival, but unlike his parents, he doesn't enjoy any of his pursuits, in fact, he finds them exhausting - because always having to be perfect is exhausting.  But if he isn't perfect at everything, Percival is afraid his parents won't love him.

So, Percival finds himself with a long list of competitive things to do, that requires multitasking.  But when something goes wrong with the rocket he's invented and it accidentally destroys his mother's perfectly decorated, multilayered cake, Percival is sure the worst is going to happen.  Instead, his parents just laugh and they have a real surprise for him - not only do they still love him very much, but they show him an attic full of their own failures.

In the end, Percival finds things to do that he loves doing, and some of those pursuits fail, but it's OK, because what is important to him now, is knowing his parents love him no matter what.

I think this is a good book about perfection and performance for kids.  Percival's parents just did what they loved doing, not bothered by their failures, but proud of their successes.  But somehow, like my Kiddo's teacher, they sent a message to their son to emulate them.  It never occurred to them that Percival also need to see their failures, so to him, being like his parents means being perfect.

This is a well-written story with digitally collaged illustrations done in soft colors, with the exception of the dark hair and dark oversize glasses the Priggs all wear.  The illustrations are also very detailed and humorous, with lots of elements for young readers to explore on each page.  I liked that many of the pages have a textile-like background, giving the book a homey feeling.   But, I also liked the irony of the book's cover - the text The Perfect Percival Priggs imposed over a very messy illustration.

The Perfect Percival Priggs is a light-hearted look at a serious topic and one that kids need to be reminded of often.  It's back to school time now, and this would make a welcome addition in any classroom book.  It would also work well in a homeschooling situation, where learning is often one-on-one or a small group.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Running Press Kids

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