But Per­haps, Just Maybe…

Tuvia Dik­man Oro, Mena­hem Hal­ber­stadt (Illus­tra­tor), Gilah Kahn-Hoff­mann (Trans­la­tor)

  • Review
By – January 27, 2022

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; a duck and a hedge­hog set off for the bicy­cle repair shop. Actu­al­ly, Tuvia Dik­man Oro and Mena­hem Halberstadt’s pic­ture book fea­tur­ing these ani­mals is not a joke but rather a gen­tle inter­pre­ta­tion of the guide­lines for judg­ing human behav­ior from the Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers). The sec­ond cen­tu­ry B.C.E. schol­ar, Joshua Ben Per­ahi­ah, cau­tioned, Find for your­self a teacher, choose for your­self a friend, and judge every­one with the scale weight­ed in their favor.” This direc­tive is the epi­graph for But Per­haps, Just Maybe…, because it is not always easy to keep this tenet in mind, par­tic­u­lar­ly when you are angry or frustrated.

Young read­ers will empathize with Duck and Hedgehog’s sense of urgency; their bicy­cles are bro­ken and there are many obsta­cles on the road to solv­ing their prob­lem. The text describes the facts of their adven­ture but also includes many details that bring the char­ac­ters to life. A zoom­ing motor­cy­cle rais­es a bil­low­ing cloud of dust,” and a cat reports that her sis­ter had tripped and sprained the tip of her whisker.” The pic­tures share the qual­i­ty of the words, with broad­ly drawn ani­mals resem­bling those in folk tales, but also with touch­es of col­or and light that make them real. A hoopoe repair­ing a bicy­cle pos­sess­es the basic attrib­ut­es of that bird but also wears big glass­es and grasps a tool in her feath­ers. Light shines through the win­dow and scat­tered imple­ments leave shad­ows on the floor. When Mrs. Fox car­ries a tray of rasp­ber­ry juice to her guests, she tries to bal­ance it care­ful­ly, but read­ers can see the juice slosh­ing uneven­ly in pitch­er and glasses.

Duck and Hedge­hog have two dif­fer­ent approach­es to life, with Duck sus­pect­ing the worst and Hedge­hog grant­i­ng every­one the ben­e­fit of the doubt. Not only does Duck fail to under­stand Joshua Ben Perahiah’s advice, but he is annoyed by his friend’s appar­ent naiveté. After all, if Hedge­hog is right, then Duck is pos­si­bly wrong. The dia­logue between the two ani­mals has the qual­i­ty of a fable but also reflects the psy­chol­o­gy of con­flict in a way that chil­dren can under­stand. Hedge­hog nev­er mocks Duck’s insis­tence on everyone’s self­ish motives. Instead, he offers imag­i­na­tive sce­nar­ios for what might have caused each dif­fi­cul­ty. Chil­dren learn that being open to a range of expla­na­tions, pref­aced by but per­haps, just maybe,” can mit­i­gate their resent­ment and offer alter­na­tive ways of thinking.

Duck and Hedgehog’s oppos­ing views of behav­ior would seem to imply that they are on two par­al­lel paths, des­tined to nev­er meet. But, in fact, just maybe, the book proves that we can some­times admit when we are wrong and move for­ward. A work­ing bicy­cle, a glass of rasp­ber­ry juice, and even an improved friend­ship, may await.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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