Review of The Ramble Shamble Children

The Ramble Shamble Children
by Christina Soontornvat; illus. by Lauren Castillo
Preschool, Primary    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.    g
3/21    978-0-399-17632-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-399-54582-5    $10.99

“Down the mountain, across the creek, past the last curve in the road, five children lived together in a ramble shamble house.” From this first welcoming sentence we know we’re in classic picture book territory — words and rhythms that taste just right and the ever-appealing theme of children in charge, with no adults on the scene. The family is self-sufficient. Merra, Finn, Locky, and Roozle garden and tend chickens. Baby Jory “looked after the mud.” Trouble looms when the children discover a photo of a stately home and decide to “proper up” their own dilapidated house and garden: installing a chandelier, replacing the chicken coop with a Victorian dollhouse and the carrot crop with roses. It turns out that a propered-up environment doesn’t work for chickens or for babies. (Jory is particularly adversely affected, as he loses his beloved mud puddle.) After a brief dark night of the soul, the family sees the error of its ways and sensibly re-establishes its comfortable, chaotic, creative world. The joyful energy of this simple story is amplified by glowing pictures showing a multiethnic group of sturdy children against impressionistic, light-infused backgrounds of mountain, meadow, and mud.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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