If you like a picture book with quirky humour and an unexpected moment then read this.
Pardon Me! is about a little bird who quietly settles down on a rock in a swamp. It is a seemingly perfect location as one by one, other animals come to share this space with him. The bird is a little spiky and non too impressed but as the animals have all asked politely – ‘Pardon me’ – there’s not much he can do about it, beyond a bit of muttering. The muttering gets grumpier and grumpier:
‘I suppose I can’t stop you.’ ‘It’s already crowded, don’t you think?’ ‘Sure, the entire swamp’s here already. Why shouldn’t you be, too?’
A heron, a frog and a turtle join him. He is very cramped, it is very funny. When a fox comes along with the words ‘Pardon me’ the bird loses it.
‘WELL PARDON ME, BUT THIS IS MY PERCH, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY! NOW LEAVE ME ALONE!’
The other animals flee, shocked at his outburst.
We then have a silent scene where the bird is calmly sitting on his perfect resting spot, alone. The colours of the sky, turning from dusk to night, are beautiful. What a tranquil scene. Except for the emerging head of a crocodile.
The next spread has the crocodile fully out and the bird realises that the perfect rock is in fact the body of the crocodile (which is what the fox had been trying to warn him about).
The next spread has the crocodile burping and in the final spread he politely says ‘Pardon me.’ I like that there is no scene where you actually see the bird being eaten – that would have been too graphic. The surprise of the crocodile is fantastic – and enough excitement to witness the eating of the bird unnecessary.
It is very reminiscent of Whatever by William Bee (which l love), Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen and I Want My Hat Back by the cool John Klassen – you know, those post-modern picture books with dark humour. It is a story that the adult reader will love instantly. The child reader may need some prompting to get the shocking humour – that the bird is being sarcastic and that it is OK to find the grumpy bird being eaten funny. But once they get that, they will really enjoy it.
The illustrations are fantastic too. This is a début picture book and Daniel Miyares has done a great job.