Monday, November 20


by David Lucas
Knopf 2005

Life is dull in little Nutmeg's house, so reads the jacket flap, and nothing ever happens. Naturally something has to happen, otherwise there's no book.

Sitting in the window looking out to sea in a ramshackle home poor Nutmeg seems to be the only one bothered by this great nothingness. Cardboard for breakfast, string for lunch, sawdust for dinner, clues that something is amiss here among the muted browns and grays of the landscape.

Careful observation of the junk inside and outside the funky home wordless explain that Nutmeg, her Uncle Nicodemus and Cousin Nesbit are marooned travelers. Long marooned at that when Nutmeg's desire to get out of the house to take a walk is seen as an outrageous exercise in futility.

While sitting on the breakwater Nutmeg lucks upon a Genie who will grant her three wishes. Without hesitation she requests something different to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Genie hands her a magic spoon, thus granting her wishes. The spoon produces a magical dinner spread, the kind that puts a thanksgiving feast to shame, and in colors that begin to shake up the somber hues. At night the spoon stirs up trouble, first by destroying the kitchen, then by turning the house and beach debris back into the magnificently odd sailing houseboat it once was. The boat (obviously under guidance by the spoon) sail them to another island where a magical -- and different -- lunch awaits them. Then they sail off to another meal and...

uh, that's where it ends.

Of all the picture books I've seen this year, Nutmeg clearly is the winner in the Most Unfinished category. Just as the story is starting to pick up speed it sails off into the horizon, the rest of the journey ahead, leaving us readers behind. And at 32 pages it felt a lot lighter to me, could have easily taken on another signature or two to let the rest of the story unfurl. I suppose it's a good thing that I didn't want it to end. Maybe I shoud do the same with
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