Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun story with a good message
Cons: None for the target audience
The Bottom Line:
Two headed danger
Fun story plus good message
Make this a winner
Two Heads Cause Problems
One of the Bill Peet titles that has stood out to me in all the years since I first read them is Jethro and Joel Were a Troll. I couldn’t remember many of the details of the plot, but I’ve always loved that title. I decided recently to reread it, and I rediscovered just how much fun it is.
As you’ve probably guessed from the title, Jethro and Joel are a two headed troll. They live high up on a mountain and spend their days growing the turnips they eat, so there is no real worry that any of the nearby villagers will discover them.
However, Joel isn’t happy with the arrangement. He wants to be terrorizing people and getting into fights. Finally, in an effort to get Joel to stop complaining, Jethro agrees that Joel can have control of their body for one day to terrorize and fight. What will happen on that day?
I remember enjoying this book when I would read it to my younger brother, and there is certainly fun to be had here. It might be a little simple for one of Bill Peet’s books, but that last line of the book is one that adults will absolutely love. And the story moves quickly enough to keep kids entertained.
As always, Bill Peet’s illustrations are fantastic. They are full color and capture the story perfectly. Kids will enjoy looking at them as they listen to the story.
I didn’t remember this book being nearly the allegory it is, but it’s hard to ignore it, and I’m not one looking for allegories in literature. We’ve got one body with two competing desires, and this book chronicles what happens when the good side gives in to the desire to do evil. Okay, so the ending of the book is happy (this is a picture book after all), which doesn’t happen when we give in to sin, but Jethro and Joel certainly come close to facing some serious consequences before the story is over. And really, this book remembers that it is there to entertain and not lecture us.
Whether you look for the allegory or not, Jethro and Joel Were a Troll is still a very fun picture book. It’s worth tracking down a copy today to read with the young people in your life.