A reprint from 1964 in NYRB’s expanding children’s collection, this moral tale by Russell Hoban is illustrated in soft graphite/charcoal by Lillian Hoban. Father returns home after a ‘sorely trying day’ at work, only to find that ‘all of the children and the cat and the dog have been bad’. A long interrogation ensues as each child and animal blames the next; punishment is meted out and then the whole thing goes into reverse and we find out why each has acted as they have, until at last everyone has accepted his own part and all can be friends again.
Tongue in cheek and a trifle arch for today’s tastes, this is the sort of book that may, on first reading at least, appeal more to adults than children. However, the right combination of adult and child could lead to a lovely shared understanding of the fun hidden in the tale as it accumulates and motivations are revealed showing how things aren’t always quite as they first seem, a situation that many readers (especially hasty adults) will recognise.