Title: For Pete’s Sake
Author: Ellen Stoll Walsh
Illustrator: Ellen Stoll Walsh
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
Summary: Pete, a young alligator, worries that he is not at all like his three best friends, who are all flamingos. Although the flamingos accept him without question, it is only when Pete meets some other alligators that he realizes that he is indeed part of a larger flock that includes creatures of all colors.
Literary elements at work in the story: Walsh tells the universal story of the search for identity with gorgeous bright paper collages. Pete the alligator wants to know who he is, but all he can seem to see is who he isn’t. Because of Walsh’s simple but effective character development, the reader can identify with Pete’s discouragement as he compares himself to the flamingoes and finds one thing after another that does not match up. His happy pink playmates try very hard to reassure him that his differences don’t matter to them, but ultimately, “Nothing could cheer him up.” Nothing, that is, until he finds others who look like him. “I’m different but the same,” he announces with joy.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a story about differences. Who notices them and who doesn’t? To whom do differences matter? Walsh bypasses the usual lecture on acceptance of the outsider, and instead focuses on what it means to be different in an accepting culture. The flamingos in this story love their friend Pete and appreciate his differences. It is Pete himself who yearns only to be like everyone else.
Theological Conversation Partners: Paul tells the Galatians about life in the Kingdom, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) The flamingos in For Pete’s Sake have already internalized this truth of unity in diversity, and they act on it, too. They see Pete as a wonderful playmate, no matter how green, featherless, or quadrapedal he is. Pete, though, can’t hear this message until he actually sees others who look like him. What do our classes and sanctuaries look like to the outsider? Will the heavily tattooed teenager know that he will be welcomed into the youth group? Do the gay couple or the elderly woman in a wheelchair see others like them in worship? This book might provide an interesting starting point for classes and church governing bodies to look at as they discuss the importance of diversity in their midst.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What kind of animals are Pete and his friends?
- Name some differences between Pete and his friends.
- Name some things that are alike.
- Have you ever felt different when you were in a group? What made you feel that way?
- Has anyone different ever been in your class at school?
- What made them different? How do you think they felt?
- What do you think that God thinks about our differences?
This review is written by regular contributor Beth Lyon-Suhring.
For Pete’s Sake by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.