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story.lead_photo.caption Sorry (Really Sorry) by Joanna Cotler, illustrated by Harry Bliss (Philomel Books, April 7), ages 4-8, 32 pages, $17.99. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

TITLE: Sorry (Really Sorry)

BY: Joanna Cotler, illustrated by Harry Bliss (Philomel Books, Tuesday), ages 4-8, 32 pages, $17.99.

STORY: As a Skypin'-granny, I have seen a few exchanges between the housebound grand-girls lately that testify to the timeliness of this book about apologies. People have said things that do not represent their true feelings for each other. But that is what people who feel sorry for themselves tend to do when they are peeved. They lash out.

In this case, it’s animals doing the lashing. Cow ignites a chain-reaction of petty meanness across the farm. It rained the night before, and she's pasterns and fetlocks in mud. She's unhappy. She takes it out on the first farm friend to happen by, Duck. Cow kicks mud in Duck's face. Then she turns her broad beam, snapping that she did it because she felt like it, and she's not sorry.

So that puts Duck in a foul mood, and she calls Frog a gross green glob. Frog vents on Bird; Bird insults Goat, and on it goes, each animal insulting the next and insisting that they are not one bit sorry.

But when the domino falls to Pig, she's very, very hurt and expresses her pain so loudly that Dog wanders over. Instead of being contaminated by the free-floating malicious discontent of the day, Dog asks Pig what has happened and actually listens. And then Dog reasons with Pig, reminding her that they like each other a lot, and providing examples.

Pig knows it's true and apologizes sincerely, and this triggers an equal and opposite reaction chain of apologies. Ultimately, Cow apologizes to Duck, and all is well on the farm. For the moment ...

Told in a light, natural voice and attractively illustrated, this book speaks well for its creators, who are old hands in the children's book trade. Cotler's a writer and artist who as the publisher of her own imprint for HarperCollins edited and published more than 50 national best-sellers. Bliss is a graphic novelist, comic and cartoonist who has written and illustrated more than 20 children's books.

Here's a video of Bliss drawing one of his cartoons, shot in 2012.

Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.

Style on 04/06/2020

Print Headline: READ TO ME

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