Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

Great title! And an apt one, since it accurately describes the eight-year-old heroine's forlorn summer after her beloved babysitter moves away.

The story, told in free verse, starts with Eleanor hearing the terrible news that Bibi, her first and only babysitter, is moving to Florida to care for her aging father. How Eleanor copes with her grief at losing Bibi and how she comes to accept and like her new babysitter is the crux of this early chapter book.

Natalie, the new babysitter, has big shoes to fill. Bibi was just about perfect. Let Eleanor tell you herself:

"She is the best babysitter in the world.
She makes me soup when I am sick.
She holds my feet when I do handstands.
She knows which of my teeth are loose
and which ones I've lost.
She rubs my back when I am tired.
She takes a needle and thread
and sews up my pants
to make them fit right.
And she knows not to tickle me.
Because I hate to be tickled."  

Who wouldn't miss someone like this! As the summer progresses, Eleanor slowly comes to terms with her loss. It helps that she has understanding parents and that Natalie doesn't pressure her to accept her. First-time author Sternberg realistically portrays Eleanor's transformation so that by the story's end we can see that she's ready to start third grade and get on with her life. Bibi hasn't been forgotten, though.

"Bibi will always be my first babysitter.
My very special babysitter.
And she will always be my Bibi.
Even if she is waiting for the breeze in Florida,
and I am far away."

This special book is for anyone who has had to grapple with loss--and that means just about everyone.

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
by Julie Sternberg
Illustrations by Matthew Cordell
Amulet books, 128 pages
Published: March 2011

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