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Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story    by Lisa Wheeler & Janie Bynum order for
by Lisa Wheeler
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

What's a porcupine in a petting zoo to do? The signs on his habitat warn visitors away (he misses the 'pats and pets and plenty of hugs' that the other animals receive), so he pines, of course. 'Poor Cushion had no one.' But this little fellow does not give up. He makes up a 'sad, sad' (and rather silly) song, and then serenades other animals in their various habitats, in his search for a wife. Janie Bynum's cheerful and engaging illustrations add to the color and humor of Cushion's story.

Cushion's song to the rabbits admits that he 'can't be picky' and tells them they 'aren't too icky'. He doesn't quite understand why they insult him in return. Similarly for the pink sow that he calls fat, and the beaver whose teeth he designates as 'bucky' (adult readers will enjoy the title of the self help book the beaver is perusing). Cushion is named a 'burr-ball', a 'scrub brush' and a 'Pin-Cushion', but when Barb calls to him from another habitat marked 'No Petting', they discover a great deal in common.

Porcupining is a charming outsider story that small kids will enjoy, while parents and other caregivers will appreciate its pointed puns. But it also works at another level. Cushion's encounters with various inhabitants of the petting zoo provide useful counter-examples for exploring with little ones how to interact positively with others. And his persistence in searching for Barb demonstrates that sometimes it can take a little time and effort to find a compatible companion - something for all ages to take to heart.

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