“Can average be extraordinary? It can if you are Pierre LaBouche, a boy with an almost superhuman ability to stand on middle ground. Pierre, who is neither fast nor slow, strong nor weak, a genius nor a dunce, has been entrusted with saving the family farm at the International Pickelympics in Bern, Switzerland. Along the way, his jar of pickles draws unexpected attention from a pickle rival, who will stop at nothing to sabotage the boy’s mission. Then Pierre meets Aurore, who initially sets out to steal the pickles but quickly changes sides. Aurore is also the story’s narrator, and she describes all the action with a good deal of panache. Cliff-hangers, puns, and all-around strangeness abound as Pierre and Aurore race to the end of their adventures. Stutz gets a lot of mileage from a slight premise, but because the writing is so lively and the twists so unexpected, readers will find much to enjoy here, and many middle-graders will see themselves in heroically average Pierre.” Grades 4-6. –Kara Dean
From Kids Around Canada:
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Pickle Impossible by Eli Stutzi – Reviewed by Dr. Janna Nadler
Recommended for ages 8-12
“Watching my one-year-old eating pickles is an amusing experience. She’ll hold the wedge of pickle in her fist, put it into her mouth, squeeze her eyes shut, shudder, make the most sour face you’ve ever seen, and spit it out – then pick it back up and eat it with enthusiasm. The sour face is deceptive. She wants more…
In his debut book for young readers, Pickle Impossible, Eli Stutz has managed to capture that same flavour for his narrative. It’s sharp and funny. Even though it’s not sweet like ice cream, or comfortable like warm cookies, you want more – it’s refreshing, has a slight “bite,” and is, well, yummy!
Okay, enough of the pickle-metaphor.
Yes, as implied by the title, Pickle Impossible is like Mission Impossible – for kids. It’s a delightfully satirical adventure, mainly due to the voice and character of the first person narrator, self-titled “the Great Aurore”. Addressing her readers directly (sorry Stutz, you’ve been eclipsed by your fictional narrator), Aurore tells us about her friend, Pierre, and their efforts to get his family’s jar of pickles to the international Pickleympics contest in Bern, Switzerland. Pierre’s family farm depends on their success.
By now, you might be thinking that basing an adventure on a jar of pickles sounds a bit absurd. Well, that’s just it. The pickles, and the adventures associated with them, are absurd; which is to say, that they are hilarious and irreverent. Alongside the usual building blocks for adventure (chase-scenes, against-the-odds escapes, family secrets revealed, top-secret government research, and so on) is the haughty, yet likable, Aurore telling us that we are reading “the greatest, most exciting story you’ll probably read all year, maybe even all of your life,” and although it is “an unbelievable story,” assuring us that “it’s true.”
Should we believe Aurore? Well, that’s up to the individual reader; though, I will say that Stutz’s evocation of Aurore as a twelve-year-old girl with, let us say, an “extra” dose of self-confidence, leads into an excellent (if slightly academic) discussion of the “unreliable narrator.” As in many of our beloved adventure tales, the unlikely hero – in this case, Pierre – turns out to be special; and, the grand language of adventure intermingled, as it is, with “pickle talk” is fabulously funny.
Stutz has a knack for humour, as when Pierre’s grandmother (who doesn’t look like a grandmother), wonders, “[w]on’t you be cold?”, a question followed by Stutz’s astute comment, “Grandmothers, after all, are grandmothers.” My compliments to Stutz on his debut children’s book –I can’t wait to read it with my older daughter. The dialogue is excellent, the characters are funny, and the story is engaging.
Now, can somebody help me open this jar of pickles? I’m hungry! And, please don’t tell my baby I’m eating the pickles without her…”
Dr. Janna Nadler has a B.Ed. and a Ph.D. in English Literature. She is the Director of BOOK CLUBS BY JANNA and lectures widely for book groups in the GTA. firstname.lastname@example.org * www.bookclubsbyjanna.com
i Published by Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers, USA, June 2010. Illustrations by C.B. Canga
© Dr. Janna Nadler 2010
From Children’s Literature:
The book is a delightful read that instantly captures the reader’s attention. The storyline is engaging and enjoyable for readers of all ages.
From CM Magazine of the Manitoba Library Association:
“Pickle Impossible is Eli Stutz’s first book, and, with the audacity of his protagonists, he presented a copy to the Queen when she visited Canada! The do-or-die adventures, the bossy Aurore, the catchy title, double entendre names and ludicrous subject matter of pickles are all quite preposterously and joyfully silly and all to be taken with a pinch of salt!!
Immersed in a Gallic ambience and a French lilt to the text, children will respond to the book’s irreverent humor, light tone and fast-paced adventures that pit good versus evil. The two main characters are well drawn with Pierre being an improbable but heartwarming hero.
Pragmatists may find the narration by the Great Aurore rather self-conscious and patronizing until they realize that this is a reflection of her opinionated, confident personality. They may also feel the frenetic pace of the plot rather exhausting and find their credulity strained when the author relies too heavily on narrative explanation and highly improbable coincidence to resolve complex dilemmas. But grade 4-6 children will suspend such judgments, recognize the tongue-in-cheek, larger than life concepts and enjoy the book for what it is, a funny, escapist, action packed, fast-paced read.”
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian who lives in Toronto, ON.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission. Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
Top Selected/Recommended Title by the Kansas State Reading Circle Commission:
Full of twists and turns, this science fiction, mystery, action adventure is the story of a quest to save the family farm by winning a pickle contest. Many changes of venue, tricks, French vocabulary, and discoveries keep Aurora and Pierre “in a pickle.”
From Parent Map:
“Pickle” is a page-turning pleaser
“What your kids will love about the book, Pickle Impossible, is the irrepressible French girl, Aurore, who’s high opinion of herself is topped only by her clever ability to get out of, well, pickles. Written by Canadian-turned-Israeli, Eli Stutz, this adventure/mystery book is a terrific, fun-filled read for the 8-12-year-old set. Highly original and just a bit quirky, you may want to add it to your own reading list. It’s about a boy, a girl and a jar of pickles – but, oh, so much more.
Full disclosure: Eli is my cousin, once or twice removed (never really understood how that works). Fuller disclosure: My 8-year-old granddaughter read Pickle Impossible, was crazy for it, and is hoping there will be a sequel. Or a series. Pickles all around!”