The Pocket Chaotic by Ziggy Hanaor, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett


      The Pocket Chaotic by Ziggy Hanaor, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett, Cicada Books, 9781908714800, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture books

What did you like about the book?  We often get picture books where the kid has to get their act together, but how often are we treated to a hapless parent? Poor Alexander lives in his awesome mom Nancy’s chaotic pocket (he’s a joey and she’s a kangaroo). Nancy can skip rope, play the piano, and outcraft anyone, but she needs some executive function help. Her pocket is stuffed with old tissues, rappers and receipts, even smelly gym shorts. Big sister Elly encourages Alexander to move out, but he likes the comfort. The little guy tries to keep on top of things (a wonderful two page spread shows him floundering amid a recorder, old socks, and a half-eaten banana) but it’s too much. Finally mom helps him move into a room of his own, with one of her old scarves for company. A final image shows Alexander tucked into his new big boy bed, reassuringly surrounded by his own mess. But wait! Isn’t that Mom and Elly craftily peaking around the corner? A final image shows Nancy emptying the mess from her pocket into the trash and sending a wink to the reader.

The illustrations (shout-out to 1944’s Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne with illustrations by H.A. Rey) are delightful. The family lives in a people-world (England? Nancy is called his “mum” and it’s a British publishing house) with colorful, orderly shops and fantasy pockets (with room for laddered shelving units). The kangaroos are all neon orange and are rendered in slightly messy, scribbly watercolors. There is so much to look and giggle at in this book.

Anything you didn’t like about it? My only qualm was the retro-gender roles: neat moms wear pearls and dad carries a briefcase. Mom is shown shopping, preparing meals, and shouldering all childcare while dad bounces off to the office.

To whom would you recommend this book?  If you have fond memories of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s cures, in which parents engage in subterfuge to bring about behavioral change, you’ll appreciate this book. This is also a light-hearted look at the serious topic of growing up and taking steps to independence, recognizing that the process can be uncomfortable at first!

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 24, 2021

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