Pete likes things neat, and tidy. He likes flowers that match, squeaky clean birds, and well groomed foxes. Can’t stand the clutter autumn leaves make when they fall, or scrappy, bare trees, or mud, and that’s not all. Pete’s sure he’s doing everyone a good turn by cleaning up the forest, but when he’s done, when all looks spick and span, “No mud, No leaves, No mess, No trees…” Pete finds himself alone in a barren concrete land. After a time of contemplation, he realises that he’s made a mistake, and the next morning he sets things right.
Pete is a happy badger, hardworking and helpful, with good intentions, but his obsession with cleanliness gets out of hand. Guilty of it myself, and it’s no fun. “It’s good to know when to stop,” and take a break, enjoy getting messy, every once in a while. Now, there’s a difference between good messy and bad messy. We all know this, kids especially do. And Gravett effectively draws a distinction between the two.
In the end, the woodland animals enjoy a picnic. Pete hides a brush behind his back, and you can tell he’s itching to detangle and tidy Fox’s fur. Last two lines read, “And Pete? Well, he promised to tidy up less. But if he succeeded is anyone’s guess!” This perfectly underlines that habits aren’t easily changed. Mistakes can still happen. But wrongs can always be repaired.
This story has so much to offer. Written in rhyme, it’s a pleasure to read. Witty and thought-provoking. Gravett’s illustrations are exquisite, bright and playful, with amusing little details that my two bigs loved spotting.