Perfectly Imperfect: A review of Phoebe Dupree is Coming to Tea

Phoebe Dupree is Coming to Tea
Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Alea Marley
Candlewick Press
June 1, 2021
Ages 3-7

This is a big day for Abby! The perfect, smart, and creative Phoebe Dupree is coming to her tea party. Everything has to be exactly right. So, Abby bathes the dog and tells him what he can and cannot do. She sets the table with china and flowers and seats the other guests (one doll and two teddy bears). The décor is flawless. When Phoebe arrives, the dog is pleasant, and the tea is poured without a hitch. However, when Abby carries out the sweets, she trips! This sets off a terrible chain reaction, causing disaster at what’s supposed to be the perfect tea party.

Ashman begins this picture book with Phoebe’s invitation to the tea party, which invites the reader as well. After inviting them, she engages them with rhyming text, making this an ideal book for Storytime. The couplets on each page render a fun, smooth, and easy read for both reader and listener. Marley’s soft-focus illustrations are expressive and vivid. You can visibly see the dog shaking off water with faded images of each stage of the shake superimposed on the drawing of the dog. And the splatter of blue across the page gives us a sense of chaos. Also, the drawings of Abby and Phoebe are enlarged, making them tall and the feature of each page. Yet the surrounding objects show their true size. These elements demonstrate the brilliance of the illustrator at using scale and adding movement to still pictures. This lyrical and vibrant tale proves that life is still perfect, even when things don’t go according to plan.