Kate Feiffer's once upon a time life
"The Problem with the Puddles," by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Tricia Tusa. Simon & Schuster/Weissman, February 2009, 195 pages, $16.99
"My Mom is Trying to Ruin My Life," by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Diane Goode, Simon & Schuster/Weissman, March 2009, 32 pages. $16.99
Every so often, it's good to note, happily ever after seems plausible: the dynamic of a happy family and creative pursuits that flow steadily and come to fruition. There is just such a natural confluence in the life of Oak Bluffs resident Kate Feiffer, wife of Vineyard native Chris Alley, and mother of Maddy, a red-haired and cunning 10-year-old version of herself.
Photo by CK Wolfson
When she was just over 40 and doing various public relations projects for Island organizations, Ms. Feiffer wrote her first children's book, "Double Pink" (S&S/Weissman, 2005), inspired by Maddy's preference for pink.
Since then, one new book has followed another: "Henry the Dog with No Tail" (S&S/Weissman, 2007), illustrated by her father, Pulitzer Prize cartoonist and Obie winning playwright Jules Feiffer, and in 2008, "Pennybaker for President," illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winner Diane Goode. It has become a full-time pursuit, with publication commitments through 2011, when "My Side of the Car," another collaboration of Ms. Feiffer and her father, is scheduled for release.
This past February saw the publication of Ms. Feiffer's first chapter book, "The Problem with the Puddles." It is the first of her three new children's books scheduled to come out in three consecutive months.
"The Problem with the Puddles" tells the story of an eccentric, argumentative, all-round ditsy family, the Puddles. Because they can't even agree on names, Mrs. Puddles calls their daughter Emily, while her father calls her Ferdinanda, although they, and her older brother Tom, sometimes just call her Baby. Both their dogs, the Chihuahua and the Great Dane, are called Sally, big and little, because the Puddles, who both like the name, couldn't agree which dog should have it.
When August ends it's time to begin the long trip from their island summer home in West Tipsbury, load everything into their station wagon, and head back to their home in the city. Whoops. It isn't until they're well on their way back to the city that they realize they've packed everything except the Sallies, who have been left behind to find their way on the ferry and then back home to the city.
When the Puddles finally realize their dogs have been left on the island, Mr. Puddles thinks they should go right back for them, but of course Mrs. Puddles thinks they should continue on their way - the neighbors will probably take care of them until they can return later in the week.
Two simultaneous adventures unfold in opposite directions. It's not an uncomplicated story. There are canine escapades, car troubles, quirks and glitches, a large cast of very odd characters, a runaway, and finally a surprising reunion. The ongoing commotion unfolds page after page and, as entertaining as it is, it is a lot to absorb.