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Peter’s Pixie

by Donn Kushner, Sylvie Daigneault, illus.

Young Peter is about to become a big brother; his parents are caring and patient but, preoccupied with the coming baby, they make it clear they have new expectations for their first-born. Prompted perhaps by these pressures (and by kindly neighbour Agnes’s talk of elves, leprechauns, and such), a mischievous pixie appears to Peter and starts causing some very minor havoc. He spills the salad; he messes up the blankets in the crib; he scatters the baby’s blocks (which used to belong to Peter). Peter gets the blame in all cases, but finds he misses the pixie when it abruptly disappears. The gifts he leaves out for it only cause more trouble in the house. The pixie finally returns – the spirit of it, at least – incarnated in the face of his newborn brother.

The late Donn Kushner (who was a microbiologist as well as a children’s author) leaves open the question of the pixie’s existence; to Peter, at least, it is real. That it is a manifestation of Peter’s growing anxieties is implicit. Sylvie Daigneault’s brightly colourful illustrations are similarly ambiguous: the scenes are essentially realistic, but fairies, toads, and magical-looking flora crowd in from the margins.

This is a solid, well-produced book, though somewhat hampered by its own good intentions. The overall tone of both prose and pictures is one of gentle reticence. The character’s faces are always pleasantly neutral; no voices are ever raised. More importantly, it’s hard to imagine a young reader being overly taken with a pixie that does nothing worse than knock over some blocks.