Skitter always was kind to Pibbin – talking with him, giving him beetle cookies, taking care of him after a bird pecked him. When – in an apparent case of mistaken identity – the rabbits held Skitter captive as a thief, and demanded the real thief and the stolen necklace before they would let her go – well, what was Pibbin to do?
The only thing a friend could. Catch a robber. Even, even if it takes him out of Friendship Bog and into Shadow Swamp.
Catch a Robber – the fourth Tale of Friendship Bog – is written by Gloria Repp. The book is 116 pages, and very nicely laid-out – with well-drawn illustrations, wide spacing, and a fairly large font. It’s sold for “Ages 8 and up”, and I think it’s ideal for children who are ready to stretch beyond picture books but for whom a full-length novel is still too daunting.
As in Trapped, the writing style is crisp, with few long sentences and probably no complicated ones. But the writing is skilled, and there are some lovely images and expressions. “Peeper-voices chimed like tiny bells in the bushes”; one passage had a snake that curled downward “like a smooth, shining ribbon,” and another that “arranged himself into a black coil and gazed at the rabbits with bright, hungry eyes.”
The story is good and the characters are excellent. Nisk, Keena, the shrews, the Big Red, Mee – all riveting, in their own way. (The bit with Mee was marvelous, building tension and intrigue through a fascinating character.) Gloria Repp excels with characters who are – how can I put this? – not quite normal. Nisk is good, I don’t doubt, and likeable as a character, but his mind is somewhere off the beaten the track.
It’s a little funny, on reflection, that among the main antagonists of this children’s book are rabbits. (Note that I don’t say villains; they’re not quite that.) But in the book itself, it completely works. I didn’t question it for a second, wasn’t drawn out of the story at all. In large part this is because Gloria Repp succeeds in framing the world as it is for her characters. To a little frog like Pibbin, rabbits are large and noisy and strong.
A word on the illustrations (done by Michael Swaim, I should note): They really are well-done, a very pleasant halfway point between a cartoon and realism. They are also appealing to children; I know because when I showed one of the Friendship Bog books to my youngest sister (four last month), she turned the pages, looking at the illustrations, and finally asked, “How do you read this thing?”
Catch a Robber is a superb children’s book – a good story with writing and characters adults can appreciate along with children. It’s also entirely wholesome, and I would recommend it to parents and teachers without reservation.
I received a review copy of this book.