Book note: How ‘Perfect’-ly ironic


Imagine a parent and a child reading a picture book together. The parent is wildly animated and the child’s eyes are glued to the pictures on the page. The child is mesmerized by the wide eyes of Jack the cat as he builds his nest in the red barn. A chicken enters and lays an egg in the nest. A duck follows the chicken, and a goose follows the duck. Each also lays an egg in the nest.

As the child gazes gleefully at the warm illustrations, the adult exclaims, “¡Caramba!”—mimicking a Spanish accent. A page later, the adult mimics a French accent. “Sacre bleu!”

The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, illustrated by John Manders. Published by Candlewick Press (2007). $16.99.

As the pages turn, the child sees the emotions of Jack the cat transformed from excitement to bewilderment to contentment. Jack is anxious to make omelets with the eggs, but the chicken, duck and goose want to stay in the nest. Eventually, Jack successfully coaxes the fowls out of the nest.

Minnesota Book Award nominees in the Daily Planet:
• Lisa Peterson-de la Cueva on Catherine Watson’s Home on the Road
• Cyrus Wolff on Patrick Jones’s Chasing Tail Lights and Will Weaver’s Defect

Jack does not get to make an omelet, however, because the eggs hatch. At the story’s end, the child smiles as Jack the cat is seen lying in the perfect nest cuddling the happy baby chick, the baby duck, and the baby goose.

On the last page, the adult reads, “Buenas noches, Mama. Bonne nuit, Maman. Sweet dreams, Ma.” Imagine that as the book is closed, the adult smiles down at the child—while the child looks up at the adult and shrugs.

The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, illustrated by John Manders, is a 500-word picture book. Friend lives on a farm in southeastern Minnesota, and The Perfect Nest has been nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. A child may not appreciate all of the story, though the vivid illustrations will undoubtedly capture the child’s interest. That said, Friend presents an opportunity for an adult with a talent for animated storytelling to create enthusiasm and interest.

Jennifer Holder ( contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.