Carol and the Pickle-Toad

by Esmé Shapiro (Author)

Carol and the Pickle-Toad
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Carol is tired of listening to her bossy toad hat -- until a pigeon carries it away! This delightful picture book from Ooko creator Esmé Shapiro is a quirky and funny fable about overcoming self-doubt and finding your inner voice.

In the big city, people wear all kinds of hats. Not everyone wears a toad as a hat, but some people do . . . and some of those toad hats can be VERY bossy! Carol has always followed the orders of her demanding toad hat at the expense of her own inner voice. But when her toad hat is plucked away by a pigeon, how will Carol know what to do? After spending so long being told what to eat and do and paint, Carol's not sure what SHE wants, and nothing feels quite right. Feeling lost, she creates a new hat -- a toad made out of pickles and eggs -- to help guide her. Even though her new pickle-toad doesn't make a sound, Carol can hear it loud and clear! But when a pigeon takes away THAT hat too, Carol begins to understand that there is a big, booming voice that lives inside herself . . . and that it's well worth listening to!

For any reader who's doubted their own voice and talents, or felt like a bossy friend or family member is always drowning them out, Carol and the Pickle-Toad is an inspiring invitation to listen to your own heart and stand on your own two feet -- even better if you're wearing very tall boots.

Publishers Weekly

Carol, a pale-skinned girl with a cloud of dark hair, round red spectacles, and striped overalls, has a unique hat. The hat is a toad, humorously portrayed as an amorphous blob, and it orders Carol around mercilessly: "No, no, that's no good," the toad opines, dismissing a painting Carol's working on, "How about me in very tall boots?" One day, the toad-hat is unexpectedly whisked away. Carol feels the loss of companionship, and assembles a substitute out of a pickle and eggs. Because the pickle-toad is less bossy, change comes quickly ("Carol painted all kinds of new things, not just toads"), but it's not until the pickle-toad is also spirited away that Carol discovers what was really missing in her journey of self-discovery: her own voice. Shapiro (Ooko) employs a wry narrative tone; her gleefully exuberant spreads, created with "watercolor, gouache, collage, matzo ball soup, colored pencils, and a toad," feature an inclusive group of city denizens, including a cast of varying skin tones and ages. With visual abundance and plenty of silliness, Shapiro's gentle tale compassionately follows Carol as she learns that she can eat what she wishes, make art, and speak courageously, all on her own. Ages 4-8. (May)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 3--Carol, a white child with red spectacles, wears a bossy toad as a hat, and that toad tells her how to behave. When a pigeon swoops up the "hat," Carol constructs another of a deli pickle and egg slices for eyes. That "hat" also tells her how to behave, but nicely. When a pigeon takes that hat, too, Carol learns to listen to her own voice. At its core, this imaginative story is grounded in a specific and unexpected metaphor that shows how Carol learns to trust her own judgment. The pace of the story can feel offbeat at times. Abrupt surprises bring Carol closer to the realization that her opinions are important, but the symbolism of Carol's hats may be easily overlooked by readers who are engaged by the humor of these unusual elements and overall entertainment of the story. Illustrated with mixed media, every space is filled with stylized details that remain impressively consistent throughout the story. A free flowing, yet organized, organic color scheme surrounds Carol with a balance of earthy pinks, grays, greens, and beige, in high and low saturations, as she discovers her favorite hobbies, like painting and trying new food. VERDICT An unpredictable story, for the most thoughtful reader, about a young city girl discovering how to voice her own opinion.--Rachel Mulligan, Westampton, NJ

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

One of CCBC's Best Books for Kids and Teens, Fall 2021

"This luxuriant, chapeau-centric appreciation of city living exudes a free-wheeling spirit of its own." —Kirkus Reviews

"Alternately funny and sweetly edifying. . . . [C]onveys a meaningful message of quieting inner critics and approaching the world, and oneself, with kindness." —Booklist

"With visual abundance and plenty of silliness, Shapiro's gentle tale compassionately follows Carol as she learns that she can eat what she wishes, make art, and speak courageously, all on her own." —Publishers Weekly

"One of Shapiro's most playful and appealing qualities as an author and artist is her combination of themes and images in a quirky way." —Imaginary Elevators

Esmé Shapiro
ESMÉ SHAPIRO grew up in Laurel Canyon, California and Ontario, Canada. Currently she and her dog, Chebini Brown, split their time between Brooklyn and New York's Hudson Valley. A graduate of The Rhode Island School of Design, Esmé is a past recipient of both the Nancy Lee Rhodes Roberts Scholarship and The SILA West 53 Gold Award-Phillip Hayes Scholarship. She has previously written and illustrated Ooko, which was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award in 2016, and Alma and the Beast, which received two starred reviews. She illustrated Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear and Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton by Margaret McNamara. She has exhibited at The Society of Illustrators, and her work has been featured in Taproot and Plansponsor magazines. Connect with her online at and Instagram @esmeshapiro.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2021

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