Petunia wants a pet. But not just any pet. Petunia wants a pet that has a cute little nose and big black eyes and lovely black and white stripes. In short, Petunia wants a skunk.
And therein lies the premise of A Pet for Petunia by local illustrator (and now writer) Paul Schmid. In typical kid fashion, Petunia's pleas include all sorts of promises about taking care of every little thing her prospective pet might need. And when her parents say "no", Petunia runs away from home. The rest you'll have to read yourself.
You may know Paul Schmid's illustrations from The Wonder Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, which came out last February. He has worked around town as an illustrator for years. But this is his first foray into both writing and illustrating a children's book. He began to write, he says, at the request of the editor he was working with while illustrating The Wonder Book. A sketch that didn't make it into the book prompted a story of its own that Schmid sold to HarperCollins. The book, Percy's Big Idea, is set to come out in the fall of 2012.
"Once I started writing, more ideas seemed to pour out of me," Schmid says. "In about 8 months I was under contract for 4 manuscripts. Since it takes me around 6 months to illustrate a book, this means I'll have to stick close to my drawing board for a while."
He was able to move his drawing board back to Connecticut for a month last fall as the recipient of a Sendak Fellowship. He and three other emerging picture book artists talked with and worked alongside Maurice Sendak.
Schmid's own daughter, Anna, and her desire for odd-ball pets (she has a Leopard Gecko) provided the inspiration for Petunia. And the odd-ball factor is what gives A Pet for Petunia much of its charm. It takes the "I want a pet" plea to an absurd extreme, what with Petunia wanting a skunk and all, but the story line maintains a familiar note, enough so that the grown-ups are likely to find it as funny as the kids.
"I like telling stories about kids, they are so fresh into the world, and their emotions are as yet untempered (a skill one learns as an adult, which allows life to be bearable but also a little dull)," Schmid says. "It's fun watching children throw themselves into their passions and desires with everything they've got. Isn't that what made life as a kid so much fun?"
Also look for Hugs from Pearl this fall.
Ruth Schubert is managing editor of Seattle’s Child.