Cover image for What is a wise bird like you doing in a silly tale like this
What is a wise bird like you doing in a silly tale like this
Shulevitz, Uri, 1935-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Relates the doings of the Emperor of Pickleberry and his ingenious talking bird Lou.
Reading Level:
520 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.6 0.5 41955.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.4 2 Quiz: 22620 Guided reading level: O.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A healthy dose of nonsense from the Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz has taken on the tricky task of weaving several nonsensical stories together into one picture book, and the result is both magical and hilarious. Set in the empire of Pickleberry, which boasts a population of 26 1/2 citizens, the tales revolve around a parrot named Lou, the emperor, his twin brother the janitor/ambassador, a traveling salesman, and a bear who loses his tail as a result of an earthquake caused when the invisible half-citizen of Pickleberry dropped a saucer. Confused? That's the point. But behind the delightful absurdity are a few dollops of wisdom. Incorporating collage in his buoyant pictures, Uri Shulevitz continues to show himself as one of the major innovators and most talented author/illustrators in the field of children's books.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-9. Let's see if I've got this straight. Here's a story about the Emperor of Pickleberry who has a twin brother (who is a janitor) and a bird named Lou (who is a genius). The bird has an aunt named Millie; the janitor has a broom. There's also a bear who has 346 yards of fabric, and a half-invisible citizen who speaks in half-words and has a big mustache--well, half of one, anyway. But that's a different story. Or is it part of this one? Where am I? Oh, yes, in the middle of a silly review of a silly story by Caldecott Medalist Shulevitz. Well, actually, there are three stories here that nonsensically merge into one--and it all works! Shulevitz's story respects all the conventions of nonsense, employing imaginary words ("katschkadrinaminafinakuchimuchibamba"), absurdities, and illogic galore. But, more importantly, his inspired drawings incorporate style-stretching collage elements that respect the same conventions. Frankly, the story within a story within a story goes on too long, but the art is absolutely inspired and brilliantly executed. And that's that. Or, as the half-invisible citizen would say, "-he -nd." --Michael Cart

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this engaging bit of frippery, Shulevitz takes a walk on the nonsensical side, concocting a tall tale about the inhabitants of Pickleberry. The Emperor and his twin brother, the janitor, share the kingdom with 26 and a half citizens ("The half was an invisible fellow with a big mustache whom everyone knew and who spoke in half words") and a talking bird named Lou ("a genius of a bird"). Fed exotic delicacies such as "caramel crisp with tamatar, badam, shalgam, zafran, mari, curry, and adrak," Lou is treated better than the Emperor's brother, who is eventually made "part-time ambassador for extraordinary missions" and sent shopping in a faraway land. He runs into Lou's Aunt Millie, who helps Lou escape, triggering a series of events that winds up with a tale-within-a-tale as Lou regales his aunt with the story of how the janitor got the best of his greedy brother. The silliness referenced in the title reigns supreme here; with a nod to Lear, the author squeezes pleasure out of invented words and tongue twisters, often with a visual twist (such as images of the half-citizen throwing down his half cup's invisible saucer and causing an earthquake). Shulevitz's sunny watercolors range from beautifully detailed vignettes to puckish cartoons (including a picture of the "National Dessert√ĄPickle Pudding" on the endpapers), ratcheting up the enjoyment factor. Ages 4-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-Two stories within a story add up to a delicious romp from this versatile author/illustrator. The village of Pickleberry consists of four-and-a-half acres of land and a population of 26 and a half (the half citizen resides on the border between Pickleberry and neighboring Cackleberry). The Emperor of Pickleberry has a twin brother, a janitor whose sage advice he routinely ignores. The ruler also has a talking bird named Lou, renowned for his intelligence, with whom he consults daily on matters of state. However, Lou is unhappy about being confined in a cage until he uses his wits (and the clever advice of his Aunt Millie) to escape. Alas, he falls into the clutches of a greedy salesman who calculates the value of a talking bird but loses his chance to cash in while listening to Lou's convoluted nonsense tale. Free at last, he joins Aunt Millie and begins at the beginning with another account, this of a man who had twin sons, one destined to become the emperor and the other a janitor whose cunning gains for him their father's coveted candlestick. Shulevitz's wacky tale is told both through traditional text and dialogue balloons abounding in sly wit. The art is a visual feast, varying in format and scale from full-page illustrations to multiple vignettes, drenched in blues, greens, golds, and ochers. Richly textured, stylized drawings feature tiny details that add to the fun. This is a book to pore over, relish, and enjoy again and again.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.