1495 Mission: possible

Peggy’s Impossible Tale
by Slavia Miki and Roy Miki, illustrated by Mariko Ando

Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2021
$19.95 / 9781926890210

Reviewed by C.L. Shoemaker

*

A beautifully illustrated, hard cover chapter book that details the precious relationship between a girl and her guinea pig, Peggy’s Impossible Tale drew my attention first through its lovely ink and colour drawings. Illustrated by Mariko Ando, the book features a striking wallpaper print of blue acorns on the cover and a red version on the interior. The design is reminiscent of older, classic children’s books. The character sketches reminded me of E.H. Shepherd’s drawings from Winnie the Pooh or Edward Gorey’s work on the Treehorne Trilogy. The whimsical drawings, done as ink sketches, use brief pops of colour to draw the eye to key elements of the story: Peggy’s pink ears, the yellow school bus or a blue peacoat. The sweet drawings, which increase in colour as you near the end of the book, highlight the story of friendship, perseverance and courage.

Slavia and Roy Miki’s text is written from the perspective of Peggy, a guinea pig. They write from view of a small creature, highlighting the height and size difference in Peggy’s world. The Mikis do an excellent job describing the world through the eyes of a small pet in her new environment. They focus on textures, colours, making friends, and frightening new experiences including meeting an ornery cat and a dive-bombing crow. Each chapter is a new experience, whether exploring the attic with its hidden vent systems, experiencing a shocking surprise when chewing an electrical cord, or hiding from the vacuum cleaner.

L-R: Roy Miki, Slavia Miki. Photo courtesy Vancouver Courier

While Peggy has many adventures, the true charm of Peggy’s Impossible Tale surfaces when she learns to do things deemed “impossible.” Peggy is repeatedly told she cannot do certain things because she is a guinea pig. She believes it is impossible to climb the stairs because she is too small, but Lisa and her mother believe in her. Eventually with practice and perseverance she excels at stair climbing. Likewise, she struggles with walking on a leash, falling seventeen times, but over time she becomes an expert.

Peggy’s lessons in persistence and courage come to a head when she enters a Special Pets contest and amazes the judges with her “impossible” skill-set. At the competition Peggy compares herself with all the other beautiful and impressive pets, worrying she will let Lisa down. However, Lisa has consistently told Peggy she is special and important. When Peggy wins the contest, Lisa reiterates her encouraging message from the first few pages: you are smart and you are special. (pp. 9, 54).

The book’s vital message of personal value regardless of abilities and persistence in the face of difficulty is an important lesson not only for children but for our current time. I appreciated the focus on encouragement, as expressed by Lisa and her mother, that showcases the value of surrounding yourself with encouraging and supportive family and friends.

Illustrator Mariko Ando. Photo by Yukiko Onley

Slavia and Roy Miki’s tale of a friendly guinea pig will interest children who have pets or have always wanted a pet. The message of persistence and personal value is one parents will want to teach to their children. While I liked the idea of a reiterated lesson phrase, the one used by Lisa’s mom in Peggy’s Impossible Tale comes across as awkward in meaning and phrasing: “The difficult is done immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”

This is my one quibble: anything difficult requires time, effort, and persistence. I would argue that it is never done immediately. The phrasing stood out for me, as the rest of the book’s dialogue and writing is smooth and easy to read both silently and aloud. A phrasing like, “we do the impossible every day. Miracles take a little longer,” versions of which I have seen in stores and on writing pads, might have melded better with the Mikis’ style of writing. Aside from this catch phrase, I enjoyed Peggy’s Impossible Tale and would recommend it for parents or adults looking for a fun story or gift.

*

Corrie Shoemaker

C.L. (Corrie) Shoemaker is an Assistant Teaching Professor for the Department of English Language and Literature and the Department of Communication, Journalism, and New Media at Thompson Rivers University. She is working on a book project entitled “Speaking of Shakespeare: Conversations with Canadian Artists,” and revising her dissertation for publication. As C.L. Shoemaker, she writes for Marjorie Magazine, sharing her love of vintage design, 1940s history, old-fashioned travel experiences, and the gorgeous antique lifestyle. She’s written travel, historical, and research pieces on Paris, typewriters, and the Nancy Drew books series. Visit her website and Facebook page. Editor’s note: Corrie Shoemaker has also reviewed a book by Jack Easton for The BC Review.

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The British Columbia Review

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.

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