Finished: Oct. 14, 2011
First Published: 1997
Genre: children, animal fantasy, humour
One spring afternoon Fred was out foraging for food in the meadow when an inky cloud seeped over the sun.
Acquired: I'm visiting relatives and borrowed this from my niece.
Reason for Reading: I've read one previous book by this author and since I enjoyed it was looking forward to reading another of his books.
I'm not sure "Mean Margaret" is actually the best title for this book as Margaret is not the main character, nor is the story really about her, but she is indeed the antagonist. The book concerns Fred, a woodchuck, and his search for a mate. His eventual marriage to the woodchuck Phoebe brings up the talk of children, which Phoebe loves and Fred hates, putting her off with lame excuses the next day they find a human child outside their burrow. Sally, renamed Margaret by the woodchucks, is the ninth child of the Hubble's, a fat lazy couple with progressively ruder and wilder children. Toddler Sally takes the cake though and no one but a mother could love her. Sharing room with siblings 6, 7, & 8, they plot to drop her off far away in the woods one night to hopefully never have to contend with her again. Such then, is the story of how Phoebe takes in this mannerliness, self-centred child to look after and care for and love as only a mother can love. Along with Fred and Phoebe are a cast of their animal friends including Skunk, Snake, Squirrel, Mr & Mrs Bat & Phoebe's sister with her own three young children. The story mainly takes place amongst the animals in the forest but does switch to the human Hubble family a few times.
This is a lovable, dear comedy where nearly everyone learns a life lesson by the end of the book. Fred and Phoebe are wonderful animal characters and anyone who enjoys this type of animal fantasy will certainly like this book. There are most definitely touches of Roald Dahl in Seidler's humour as his dark humour is laced with a witty meanness that makes this as much a fun read for adults as children. The artwork by Agee is plentiful and reminded me of William Steig in style. A funny story, touching and heartwarming at times, while giggle producing at others. Not exactly a fast-paced story but one to enjoy at its own leisurely pace. This read makes me want to re-read "A Rat's Tale" the only other Seidler book I've read, and go on to reading his other books.