Joy Cowley has a knack for writing stories that are fantastical and surreal, but grounded in reality. This story is grounded in the parenting reality of warning a child of consequences of a certain behaviour, seeing the child do it, and as night follows day, watching the consequences. Parenting is full of “I told you so” moments.
A mother tells her son not to eat plums in bed, “or something will happen.” So he eats plums in bed, and a plum pit falls under the bed and grows into a tree, carrying him and his bed with it.
You call to your mother.
She says, “I told you not to eat plums in bed.”
The boy and his bed are in the tree for a long long time, through spring and wind and rain and sunshine and autumn and even snow. It’s great fun – he gets food hauled up on a rope, and birds build nests on his bed, but, after a while, it all gets a bit boring. Eventually, the boy’s father says that he thinks they can get the boy down, but not his bed. So down he comes, slowly. But not his bed.
Your mother says,
“We will buy you a new bed
but please, please, please,
do not eat plums in it.”
The book ends with another moment of parenting reality.
“Let me think about that,” you say.
I love the way this story is told in the second person. It’s all about what you will say, what you will do. This seems to invite the child reading the story to imagine it all as though they themselves were growing into the air and camping in the tree for months and months and months.
The illustrations are very amusing. As the boy plays in his bed high in the tree, the parents plan an overseas trip over a nice bottle of wine, eat wonderful food, turn the radio up and tango in the lounge. They’re having a jolly good time. A little unusually, the illustrator’s name has equal billing with the writer’s on the cover; I wonder if this is because Joy Cowley thought that Jenna Packer’s illustrations added a whole extra dimension to the book.
Joy Cowley is a national treasure. She has written many picture books for children, and she has also written many of the readers that children bring home from school when they are learning to read.