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Pickle Me This

September 18, 2012

Mr. King's Things by Genevieve Cote

I cannot really claim any objectivity in my adoration of Genevieve Cote’s new book Mr. King’s Things, because a character in it was named after my daughter, which is certainly some kind of conflict of interest. I met Genevieve in 2008 on a rather glorious adventure, and we’ve kept in touch ever since, our bond cemented over a mutual love of teapots (she puts them in all her books!) and my admiration for her work. I was 4 months pregnant with Harriet when she signed me a copy of What Elephant?, and since then, Genevieve’s books have made up a beloved corner of our library: her companion books Me and You and Without You, and also The Lady of Shalott. And we’re especially in love with Mr. King’s Things, which arrived in our mailbox yesterday, dedicated, “For the REAL Harriet.”

Mr. King is a cat (with a crown) who is fond of buying stuff. When he returns from his shopping excusions, laden with bags and bags of price-tagged goods, he gets rid of his old things by throwing them into a nearby pond. Gone for good, he supposes, but then one day his things return to haunt him in a terrifying way. With the help of his friends (including a small pink owl called Harriet who goes surfing on a paint pallette), Mr. King realizes the error of his ways and learns how old things can be made new.

This book particularly delights me as it contains the line, ‘”A jumble sale!” cries Harriet. “I love jumble sales!”‘ I am not sure that Genevieve deliberately placed a Barbara Pym reference in her picture book, though with the thing she has for teapots, it might not entirely surprise me.

Harriet seems to not think it so remarkable that a character in a book has been named after her, though when you’re 3 years-old, you’re pretty much blase about everything that isn’t a firetruck. Harriet loves the book though, and I’ve read it over and over. Genevieve Cote’s work is as enchanting as ever.

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