Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith with illustrations by Marla Frazee is one of those picture books I not only borrowed from the library a dozen times, but had to purchase for myself and others.
The book won the 2002 Original Voices Award from Borders. You can read about that here.
Linda Smith wrote this book while she was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation to treat breast cancer. Her battle was ultimately unsuccessful. She left behind a husband, eight children and several books that were published (after she died). You can read more about Linda Smith here.
I love Mrs. Biddlebox because the illustrations are perfect. I love Mrs. Biddlebox because the language is surprising and delicious. (“When the fog gave her the whiffles, she held her broomstick steady, stabbed the dreary lot of it, and twirled it like Spaghetti!”) But mostly I love Mrs. Biddlebox because it captures the truth about feeling rotten, about having a really bad day. We’ve all felt like Mrs. Biddlebox and it helps to know we’re not alone in those feelings.
That’s why I was disappointed when I read on Alice Pope’s blog that Mrs. Biddlebox sold only 12,500 copies with HarperCollins then went out of print.
Harcourt recently purchased rights to the book and is reissuing it . . . with new cover art.
Children have really bad days, too. Mrs. Biddlebox gives them permission to do that. She lets them know they’re not alone in their feelings. (“On a knotty little hill, in a dreary little funk, Mrs. Biddlebox rolled over on the wrong side of her bunk.”)
The new and “improved” cover looks too cheery. The blue color is too bright to represent the feelings in this book. Although different from most picture books, the original cover art captures the essence of the story.
I’m thrilled that Harcourt is reissuing Mrs. Biddlebox so more children (and adults) can enjoy this gem of a book, but I wish they’d kept the original cover. I know I’m going to treasure my copy with the amazingly “dreary” cover.