The adventures of miss p.., p.1
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       The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, p.1

           Anne Michaels
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The Adventures of Miss Petitfour

  Text copyright © 2015 by Anne Michaels

  Illustration copyright © 2015 by Emma Block

  Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company

  All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher—or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency—is an infringement of the copyright law.

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Michaels, Anne, 1958-, author

  The adventures of Miss Petitfour / by Anne Michaels; illustrated by Emma Block.

  ISBN 978-1-77049-500-5 (bound).—ISBN 978-1-77049-502-9 (epub)

  I. Block, Emma, illustrator II. Title.

  PS8576.I169A64 2015 jC813’.54 C2014-906430-6


  Published simultaneously in the United States of America by Tundra Books of Northern New York, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2014951819

  ISBN: 978-1-77049-500-5

  ebook ISBN: 978-1-77049-502-9

  Edited by Tara Walker

  Designed by Kelly Hill

  The artwork in this book was rendered in gouache and pencil crayon.

  The type was set in Adobe Caslon.

  The hand lettering was rendered by Emma Block.

  Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company


  For R and E



  Title Page



  Introducing Miss Petitfour

  … and her Cats

  Miss Petitfour and the Rattling Spoon

  Miss Petitfour and the Jumble

  Miss Petitfour and the Penny Black

  Miss Petitfour and the Birthday Cheddar

  Miss Petitfour and the “Oom”


  About the Author

  Very soon you will be meeting Miss Petitfour, and so, just to be sure you’ll recognize her, this is what she looks like.

  , the littlest cat, looks as if she stepped in snow when she was a kitten and the snow never melted. She is all black except for her white paws and the spots on her head and tail where the snow didn’t melt either.

  , is the color of rain on a window.

  is the color of toast and butter.

  is silver, long-haired and likes to nap on magazines.

  looks as if he just rubbed the sleep from his eyes and left behind two little smudges of orange. Otherwise, he wears patches of black and white.

  is the yellow of … mustard, and he has a gray mustache.

  is the yellow of … Dijon mustard, and he wears a beret.

  is black with a white shirtfront. She likes soup.

  is a Siamese who loves shiny things.

  is chocolate-brown, and the tip of his tail looks like it has been tasting vanilla icing off the top of a cake (which tells you something about him).

  wears a bobble hat, knitted for him for his fifth birthday. He loves to draw and paint.

  Of all the captains, is the oldest and wisest. He has many stories to tell from the days when he was a ship’s cat. He is a blue-gray British shorthair with a lovely round, bearded face. Sometimes he wears his captain’s hat.

  Captain Captain’s son, is a bit mischievous and is gray and white like a winter sea.

  is Captain Captain’s daughter and Captain Catkin’s sister. She loves to dance and is silver and white like a skating rink in moonlight.

  believes she is descended from royalty. She wears a lace collar and has silky fur, bright as a gold coin.

  is a ginger cat. He is little but very long.

  Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened. Like the adventure of sharpening your pencil to a perfect point, just before it breaks and that little bit gets stuck in the sharpener. That, I think we will all agree, is a very small adventure.

  Other adventures are so big and last so long, you might forget they are adventures at all—like growing up.

  And some adventures are just the right size—fitting into a single, magical day. And these are the sort of adventures Miss Petitfour had.

  No one knew where Miss Petitfour got her name. Did an ancient Petitfour invent those fancy iced cakes called petit fours (which conveniently rhymes with spaghetti store)? You know, those miniature cakes that disappear in one bite, cakes so small you don’t have to share? Was it because one of her great-great-great-grandfathers was such a splendid baker of little cakes, or was it because he was simply so very good at eating them? Miss Petitfour herself was an expert at both.

  If Miss Petitfour were short, and if she were a bird, you might say she was as prim and proud as a sparrow. But Miss Petitfour was not short—she was tall—and so you’d have to say she was as spindly as a stork. Her legs were as thin as string with two knots for her knees and two knots for her ankles. And, just as one might expect of someone who likes to fly, she had billowy hair that she wore all brushed up in a tumbling bun. The more she brushed up, the more it came down, and misty wisps floated about her head. She liked to wear a woolen coat that flounced when she walked and jingled with a row of silver buttons. Almost everything she wore (except her shoes) ended in zig-zagging scallops of lace and rickrack. She was especially fond of pockets, paisley, playful patterns and anything hand-knitted.

  On windy days, Miss Petitfour always took her cats out for an airing. There was Minky, Misty, Taffy, Purrsia, Pirate, Mustard, Moutarde, Hemdela, Earring, Grigorovitch, Clasby, Captain Captain, Captain Catkin, Captain Clothespin, Your Shyness and Sizzles. The cats liked to be aired. They liked to feel the wind pick up every one of their hairs and set them down again, gently, as if the wind were looking for something.

  In one hand, Miss Petitfour would hold the littlest cat, Minky, and with the other she would choose her favorite tea party tablecloth, bringing together the four corners in her fist and straightening her arm into the wind. Immediately, the tablecloth would puff up like a biscuit in the oven, and swiftly Miss Petitfour’s shiny shoes would lift from the earth. Then, one by one, Minky, Misty, Taffy, Purrsia, Pirate, Mustard, Moutarde, Hemdela, Earring, Grigorovitch, Clasby, Captain Captain, Captain Catkin, Captain Clothespin and Your Shyness, with little-but-long Sizzles at the end, lifted off with Miss Petitfour, each cat with its tail wrapped to another.

  How the cats loved their flights with Miss Petitfour!

  The cats swung down like a strand of wool or a skipping rope or a loose hair ribbon, sixteen cats dangling in one gigantic puss-tail. Then, when Miss Petitfour spotted her destination below—the bakery or the bookshop or The-Cream-and-Cream-Bun Cafe (the cats’ favorite)—she neatly shortened sail and drifted down, landing tidily on her toes, followed by dozens of dainty little paws as the waterfall of cats poured and purred into the street. The cats had to be careful of their tails when landing, so as not to get tangled in trees and laundry lines and gargoyles and other such obstacles. Everyone in the village was used to Miss Petitfour’s mode of travel, and no one blinked an eye except to say hello.

  Miss Petitfour always traveled by tablecloth, that is to say, by air. First, she would take a measure of the meteorological circumstances, that is to say, the weather. Then she would position herself accordingly, only attempting errands that were propitious, that is to say, favorable. In short, she
would fly in whatever direction the wind blew her. If the wind were blowing eastward, for example, she would go to the pet shop (to browse for the latest in cat toys), and to Mr. Patel’s Bakery (for treats with icing, whipped cream or crunchy crusts), and to Mrs. Carruther’s Grocery Shop (where the avocado pears were always exactly right, neither too hard nor too quaggy, that is to say, squeezy). But if the wind were westerly, she would take advantage of that fact and do her banking, then visit the bookshop, the zoo, Mr. Clemmo’s Hardware Shop, or take something in for repair to Mr. Pomeroy, who could fix anything that had springs in it—a watch, a windup toy, a mechanical hat. (Mr. Pomeroy loved springs, ever since he was a boy, and so he made them his life’s work. “What use is a job if it doesn’t have springs in it?” he would say, and of course he was perfectly right.)

  Miss Petitfour did not live far from the village—just a short flight—and she always liked to hover above and admire the view. Every shop had a big wooden sign that swung and creaked in the breeze. And every sign was in the shape of what was sold in the shop. So, for example, the sign for Mr. Patel’s Bakery was in the shape of a great wooden cupcake, and the sign for Mrs. Collarwaller’s Bookshop was a giant book, and the sign for Mr. Clemmo’s Hardware Shop was a gigantic hammer. In this way, the village was friendly to everyone, even to the youngest who didn’t yet know how to read, or to a stranger who spoke a foreign language; everyone would know which shop was which, and no one would go into the bakery expecting to buy a pair of shoes.

  Mrs. Collarwaller, the bookseller, was a particular friend of Miss Petitfour, and the bookshop was one of Miss Petitfour’s favorite places. There were two sides to Mrs. Collarwaller’s shop, one side for adventure books and the other for books in which nothing ever happens. Personally, Mrs. Collarwaller preferred books where nothing ever happens, but even she understood that sometimes we feel the need to visit another planet, or to run away to sea to meet pirates, or to fall down holes, or to be blasted by a volcano, and that sort of thing. So, one side of the shop was the ho-hum and the other was the hum, although which was which depended on what sort of book the customer liked best.

  Mrs. Collarwaller herself mostly liked books where people sat knitting by the fire with a plate of biscuits and a mug of steaming cocoa beside them, dreaming about the day Lord Somersault or Lady Hopscotch would come to tea, with detailed descriptions of all they would eat: buttery shortbread that greases your fingers, jelly doughnuts oozing fruit, eclairs dipped in chocolate and full of air. Not to mention crisp Florentines, fluffy Neapolitans and custardy custard squares. Mrs. Collarwaller loved books in which people talked a lot and thought aloud, had dreams, discussed recipes and looked at each other with affection. She liked books full of interesting facts that would never come in useful and were therefore always the most fascinating sort of facts to know. For example, the kind of food ostriches like best, or the history of doilies, or all the movies in which the Isetta bubble car appears, or important details concerning the invention of shoelaces. And, it bears repeating, anything involving doilies.

  Wise Mrs. Collarwaller was convinced that if you knew these sorts of things, you were more likely to bump up against occasions when such information was needed, just as if you had an ice-cream machine in your kitchen, you were far more likely to eat ice cream than not. But then there were others who believed that having an ice-cream machine meant exactly the opposite, that one would tire of homemade chocolate marshmallow ribbon and therefore rarely eat it at all, and of course this discussion was just the sort of thing Mrs. Collarwaller liked to read about and would be in a book one would find in the ho-hum—or was it the hum?—half of her bookshop.

  People often say that children have no use for long words, but frankly, Mrs. Collarwaller found this never to be the case. In her vast experience, children loved books that contained words such as propitious, perambulator and gesticulate, especially if they all ended up in the same sentence. The kind of word your tongue could get tangled up and lost in. She was very helpful to her young customers, suggesting, for example, that if they wished to finish reading a particular book before they fell asleep, then they’d better start reading while still in the bathtub; that way, they’d be on page thirty-three by the time they were pulling their arms into their pajama sleeves, and more than halfway by the time their head was on the pillow. Mrs. Collarwaller had many good ideas, such as printing an entire story on one’s pillowcase, so that there would always be something to read if one woke in the middle of the night. (Of course, like all the best booksellers, she kept a fresh supply of flashlights and batteries by the cash register, for those who like to read under the blankets.)

  Miss Petitfour and Mrs. Collarwaller spent many enjoyable hours drinking tea together in the bookshop and playing a game they were both extremely fond of: thinking up titles for books too silly ever to be written, such as BEWARE, I’M GOING TO ROB YOU ANY MINUTE, or WARNING: THE LAST PAGE IS MISSING, or THIS BOOK IS A WASTE OF TIME, or HOW TO CARE FOR THE FISH IN YOUR SHOE, or DON’T BOTHER, ALL THE PAGES ARE STUCK TOGETHER, or I THINK I’M ASLEEP.

  Do you know what a digression is? Well, of course you do. A digression is like quicksand or a whirlpool—sometimes you just can’t find your way out of one. It’s the part of a story that some people think is the most fun, when the story wanders off the point and gets lost, giving us all sorts of information that has nothing to do with getting us from the beginning to the end. A digression is just like what happens when you’re walking to school: you stop to tie your shoelaces and notice the neighbor’s dog looking at you, and so you stop to give it a pat, and then you see the fence has started to fall down, and so you have to climb it just a little, and then you look up and realize the clouds are in the shape of pianos, and then, oh dear, you suddenly remember you were on your way to school and you have to run all the rest of the way so you won’t be late. That is a digression.

  Now, where were we?

  Miss Petitfour’s sixteen cats were very fond of arts and crafts. They especially loved to make elaborate costumes for themselves and to decorate absolutely everything. And so, off they would go, with Miss Petitfour, through the air to the Sew-a-Lot Shop (the shop’s sign was a big spool of thread), where they collected ribbons and shimmery satin, delicate lace and knubbly wool, small panels of crepe paper, squares of felt, bolts of plush velvet, bushels of buttons and reams of silver foil. Then they would return home to sew, knit, cut, paste, tie, scrunch, fold, drape, tape, crochet, embroider and generally decorate away.

  The cats decorated each other and then displayed themselves in dramatic poses on the carpet, or dripping from the arms of Miss Petitfour’s overstuffed chairs. Sometimes they even decorated Miss Petitfour, adorning her with feathers or fabric.

  The puss-cats were also fond of making themselves into sculptures—swirly structures that were just for show. They liked to pretend they were fancy staircases, balconies, wrought-iron banisters, baskets and chandeliers, and they often needed a tail detangler to sort themselves out afterward.

  And when they were finally tired out from all their artistic activity, they would fall asleep in the hammock in the back garden, dreaming of buns sodden with freshly whipped cream and vats of dipping chocolate. Or sometimes they joined Miss Petitfour for a nap on the sunny porch, where they would lie in a lovely mound of cozy and tangled cat-spaghetti, with a hum—or a ho-hum—book open across Miss Petitfour’s lap.

  Sometimes stories will have three special words right in the middle of them, like three shiny buttons down a shirtfront or a dress, or three shiny screws in a shiny hinge. These three little words, “THEN ONE DAY,” open a story like a tiny key. (Words are often keys, as your parents have no doubt told you, and open things very nicely—please, thank you, yes, no, may I.) So now, before the “ho” creeps forever ahead of the “hum,” let us use those three little words.

  THEN ONE DAY, as Miss Petitfour was setting the table for tea, she noticed the empty marmalade pot, with the spoon still in it. Could it be true? She ratt
led the silver spoon in the empty jar. (And rattled it again because she liked the sound it made.) Well, this was surely one of the most unheard-of things she had ever heard of. Teatime without marmalade? It was unthinkable (though she had just thought it). It was the most unthinkable thought she had ever thought. Without a moment to lose, Miss Petitfour chose a tablecloth and called her cats around her and rushed into the garden for liftoff.

  Miss Petitfour was very particular about which tablecloths she chose for her flights with the cats. A sunny day called for a starched white cloth, so she would seem to be floating gracefully from a cloud. A rainy day called for a transparent plastic tablecloth, as invisible as the rain itself. And in autumn, when the sky was a deep shade of plum or gray, Miss Petitfour brought out her brightest, most colorful cloth, so that the reds, oranges and golds would glow against the dark sky, and anyone looking up would think that the top of a beautiful autumn tree had lifted from its trunk and was floating away.

  And today, because they were simply off to the shops, Miss Petitfour had her trusty paisley cloth in hand. Paisley was Miss Petitfour’s choice for everyday jolly good fun, just because she liked the swirls and curls so much.

  Unfortunately, however, the wind was blowing in the direction of the bank, and not in the direction of Mrs. Carruther’s Grocery Shop. Miss Petitfour stood for a moment, thinking what to do. (It is often the case that the wind is not blowing in the right direction. This is just another tiresome fact of life, like the fact that your feet grow too big for your favorite shoes, or that your favorite crayon gets shorter and shorter the more you use it.) Perhaps, thought Miss Petitfour, she could ride the wind the wrong way and circle around the whole globe to Mrs. Carruther’s shop … Well, do you think this is wise? To go the wrong way to get somewhere? The more Miss Petitfour thought about it, the more she liked the idea, for she liked circles, and anything made in the shape of a circle—doughnuts, biscuits, pancakes—so she straightened her arm to the wind and off they flew.

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