Book Review: Shrewbettina’s Birthday By John S. Goodall

It is two days from the first day of fall which can only mean two things: First, the best month and season have arrived, and second, I forgot to do anything to celebrate this little blog’s first birthday. August 22, 2012 was my first post here and that date has come and gone unnoticed. So, although I’m a month late, I still prefer to celebrate great birthdays in September and I’m going to celebrate today with a marvel of a little book about a sweet shrew mouse’s birthday. Completely wordless, but incredibly stunning; this is nothing but a little masterpiece from a fantastic illustrator. So come to a party with me in Shrewbettina’s Birthday by John S. Goodall, 1970.

In case you are wondering about that first picture, yes that is actually the title page. My copy of this book is a vintage gem without a cover and the poor thing has nothing on but a hideous dirty yellow cloth cover. I decided to spare it the embarrassment of showing up to a party in such attire and reserved its dignity with its lovely title page. I will however close with a peek at its beautiful end pages so stay tuned for that.

This book is small, measuring about 5″ x 7″ and it is completely wordless except that title page. Being a Goodall wonder it also holds many unique and immensely delightful page turns. Every other page is actually a half page that when turned changes the current scene in the room.

The story begins with Shrewbettina asleep in bed.

Click on the image to view a larger, animated version of the page turn.

Then her charming clock chimes morning and she awakes with the half page turn (click on the above image to view). Words are terribly difficult to express the joys of these small page turns. It is a delight to go back and forth between the pages and see what details changed and what occurred in the moment.

Birthday 4

The story is also an eventful one including Shrewbettina’s trip to the market that begins with a thief snatching her purse, a handsome gentleman stepping in, preparing her home and herself for the party, and then finally the party including a feast, dancing and much fun!

Birthday 5

The details of these illustrations are truly something to behold. John S. Goodall is one of England’s best-loved artists and all of his children’s books are similar in form to this one. Although wordless, there is definitely a plot and it keeps you guessing and wondering. Not only did Goodall have immense illustration skill, but his cleverness and wit come out in full force too. The outfits on his characters are so perfect!

Click on the image to view a larger, animated version of the page turn.

Studying each page of the book just leaves me in awe and also a bit exhausted at the end like sweet Shrewbettina once all her guests leave. This girl knows how to party!

Birthday 8

Books like this are such a little treasure. Every time you read it, the story will be a bit different as you fill in the details with your eyes and mind. I hope you enjoyed the sweet party that I could give via the blog. Thanks for reading along. Happy September everyone and most importantly, happy fall!

Birthday 9

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Shrewbettina’s Birthday By John S. Goodall

  1. An extraordinary book! Thank you for sharing this wonderful birthday party!
    The art is awesome!
    Happy Blog-day Birthday, too! I forgot it had been a year!
    September is one of my favorite months because it is also brings back the precious memories of when I met you for the first time and the many Septembers after! I love the colors and the brisk mornings! I hope it is a wonderful month for you and your blog!


  2. Happy birthday to you and your blog! I love the animated page turns here! Fun review. Sorry I’m so late to pop over! Thanks for sharing this post at Booknificent Thursday last week! Looking forward to seeing what you have to share with us this week!


  3. Hi, Caryn! So glad to have discovered your blog through Carter Higgins’ tweet!

    For whatever reason, until this past year, I was unable to truly appreciate wordless picture books (sad, since I illustrate! lol), but I have been so blown away by recent ones (Flora and the Flamingo, Journey, Hank Finds an Egg, etc.), it is opening a closed door (page) to a world of books I hadn’t allowed myself to appreciate. This one is an older book (just ordered it through the library) and I can’t wait to read it! Thanks!


    1. Glad to have you here! I understand your hesitancy towards wordless books. It takes effort combined with a truly beautiful book to break through the difficulty of reading them. Be sure to check out South by Patrick McDonnell. It remains one of my favorites to this day. Thanks for reading!


  4. Hello and thank you… you see I was looking for this book because I gave one for my daughter when she was 3 ( we lived in London by this time, now she is 36 and we live in Sao Paulo)and I looked everywhere at home, old boxes ,etc…I couldn’t find it and then , what a good surprise, I found it! She asked about it because she said she never forgot this particular book. She has a boy of 3 and she wants make a revival with him..Indeed it is a enchanting children’s book.


  5. Thank you so much for sharing. I am so relieved to see this book again. I have such fond memories of this book, a friend of my parents had a copy of it on a shelf in the upstairs hallway of their (haunted) house and I remember looking for it every time I went there, pouring over the pages. It was very romantic I remember. I never had a copy but now I have my own daughter I am on the hunt. Although if I do find a copy I think I will wait until she is a little older before she enjoys the privilege! I can’t bear the thought of tearing those beautiful little pages.


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