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Review: A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid

A Pet for Petunia
By Paul Schmid
Harper (HarperCollins)
ISBN: 9780061963315
Grades K-2
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Playing opposites is a common occurrence in children’s literature. Little Pea, Bedtime for Mommy, and Children Make Terrible Pets are but a few recent examples of a concept with a long history. The act of reversing expectations can be delightful (and often hilarious) stuff for youngsters. A Pet for Petunia takes this contrary approach and applies it to a little girl pining for a new pet (itself a familiar childhood experience). The results are not to be missed.

There is one thing Petunia wants. A cute little pet skunk. She begs her parents for one, promising to provide walks and litter box duty for her pet-to-be. Petunia’s request is denied on account of, you know, the terrible smell. Our heroine, convinced her parents are crazy, flees for the woods in hopes of changing her their minds. There she runs into an honest-to-goodness skunk…and learns what her parents were talking about. The final page, introducing a porcupine as Petunia’s next fixation, will leave readers grinning.

The simple text and broad humor make A Pet for Petunia a prime read aloud candidate. As I was reading, I found myself working out how I would deliver the text to a group of kids. I took this to be a good sign.

The spare illustrations give off a simple, childish vibe that suits the story well. Negative space plays a key role, with minimal backgrounds and plenty of white space. The color palatte is a limited purple, black, and gold.

Really, isn’t the unexpected more fun? A Pet for Petunia proves it.  This is a book you should get your hands on.

Review copy from publisher

Click here to read an excellent interview with Paul Schmid at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Watch the book trailer for A Pet for Petunia:

Also reviewed by A Fuse #8 Production, the excelsior file.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Just reading your review has me planning exactly how I will read this aloud. It’s on my purchase list!

  2. Kerry Reed says

    This looks adorable and I trust it will be a crowd pleaser. However, I can’t help but wonder if the anticipated and expected outcome isn’t perpetuating a myth.

    I just finished rereading Jean Craighead George’s The Tarantual in My Purse where she dedicates a chapter to her children’s pet skunk (her 2nd) and declares that skunks are wonderful pets. They are very cat like and only spray when in mortal danger. Maybe it’s time for a fresh approach to skunks (pun intended!)

    • You bring up a good point, Kerry – the Fuse #8 Production review that I link to above touches a bit on the reality of skunks as pets.

  3. Thanks Travis for the nice review, so glad you liked the book!

  4. bought. read. love it!

  5. Oh, Petunia, I love her. I have this book and am looking forward to seeing (and buying) all Paul’s books!

  6. I love children’s books that involve pets. I recently picked up a used copy of Timid Timothy, which was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. This story sounds like a fun and quirky read.

    I am sure that skunks could make wonderful pets…for the right people that know about their special needs. I think most people would try to treat them like a cat and it would not work out so well. I have a Beanie Baby skunk, and that is probably the closest i will come to having a skunk in my house.