Author: Emily Gravett
Illustrator: Emily Gravett
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2016
Audience: Ages 4-7
Summary: Pete is a badger who likes for everything to be neat and tidy. Pete learns the hard way that sometimes we must know when to stop. He cleans up and organizes so much that he destroys his home. Through trial and error, Pete learns to enjoy his forest habitat just the way it is.
Literary elements at work in the story: This text uses rhythm and rhyming to tell the story. It is written with simple sentences, easy for early readers. The artistry of the book is bright and colorful. God’s creation in the artwork is realistic with a bit of whimsy. There is attention to detail and the artist has a sense of humor in her writing and illustrations which makes this an enjoyable story for adults too.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? In this instance one’s gender, race, culture, or economic background do not greatly impact the understanding of the story. The setting of the forest and the plethora of wildlife that live together in harmony and even come to the badger’s aid after his mistakes speak to the hopefulness of humanity—particularly in our attention to be stewards of what we are given.
Theological Conversation Partners: An appropriate title for this book could be, “Tidy: Or How to Let Go and Let God.” There is a lot to be said in terms of God’s creation and humanity’s need for control and dominion over it. Pete the badger starts with just picking up trash, then he starts giving baths to the birds. Once he starts picking up fall leaves, he does not like the looks of the barren trees, so he rips out all the trees. When he is left with only mud, he pours concrete over the earth. Then and only then, when he cannot get to his food or his home, does he understand that he has destroyed the wonderful environment he had. His friends in the forest help him set everything right. This would be a great book to use in the context of Earth Day or when children are learning about Genesis in creation and stewardship. This may also fit into a discussion about how as humans we often try to be in control of everything rather than trusting in God’s providential care. We often work ourselves into a frenzy trying to make things just right but those efforts are in vain. In that light, it could be paired with the Biblical story of Jonah trying to flee from his call to Nineveh, or Paul before his revelation and acceptance of Christ. Perfectionism is another theme here. We always want to be perfect or the best at something. But sometimes, we do not have to do it all perfectly. We have to leave room for the imperfections that make life interesting.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Pete’s character has some excellent qualities. What do you think those might be?
- Often we have to go through something very difficult to learn a life lesson? What do you think Pete learned and how did he come to that conclusion?
- Does Pete remind you of anyone in the Bible? If so, who is it and why?
- What can you do to take care of God’s creation without going so far as Pete?
- Do you like to be in control of things? Are there things that you cannot control?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Loren Tate Mitchell. Loren serves as Associate Pastor of the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, VA.
Tidy by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.