Old Misery by James SageOld Misery by James Sage
Illustrator: Russell Ayto
Published by Kids Can Press on May 1, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Picture Book, Folktale
Pages: 40
Format: eARC
Purchase at Bookshop.org
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Poor Old Misery. She and her old cat, Rutterkin, ain't got two pennies to rub together. And the one thing of value she does have — a tree, filled with good eating apples — is regularly ransacked by humans and animals of all kinds who make off with armloads of apples! So, one day, when a surprise visitor grants her a wish, Old Misery tells him, There's but one wish for me, mister, and it's this here: whoever I catch stealing apples off my tree will get stuck to it until I decide to let them go! At first, it seems like her wish was a terrific idea, as she catches all the apple thieves and sends them on their way for good. But then Old Misery decides to use her new power on another surprise visitor. And she learns what may be the most miserable lesson of all: be careful what you wish for!

Author James Sage has created a playful allegory about why misery exists in the world, and always will. Award-winning Russell Ayto's two-color, pen-and-ink illustrations do a superb job of evoking the eccentric and slightly macabre feel of the book, perfectly complementing the original voice of the storytelling. The dark humor and a vintage feel will make this picture book a hit with fans of Edward Gorey and Lemony Snicket.

I admit it. The drawings are what drew me to Old Misery, along with the title. The blurb above gives a good summary, but I will say I found it amusing who all managed to get stuck in her tree. The illustrations are perfect for the story, simple and amusing but grim too.

But we all know that wishes can often be double-edged swords.  The “surprise visitor” who really probably wasn’t much of a surprise to the old woman, ends up stuck in the tree and Old Misery learns why you have to be so careful with your wished.

It’s a cute re-telling of the Auntie Misery folktale. It’s dark and a reminder that there will always be Misery and Death in the world, but I’m pretty sure there are certain kids, some of whom may or may not be in my family, who will love it.

About James Sage

James Sage is an American author who has channeled his experience with film and photography into creating picture books. He strongly believes that the successful blending of words with images is the element that gives a story its special magic, as it is often what lies beyond both that has the most lasting impact. A story, he insists, should raise questions that are not at first apparent. They should be the cause of thought and wonder, and linger with the reader in a happy, troublesome way. Today, from a small market town in England, he continues to explore this phenomenon, carefully varying his style to suit the subject. For James, it is a continuing adventure.


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