Never, Not Ever!
Never, Not Ever, written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna, might be the perfect picture book. It’s simple, funny, charming, and tells a universal story.
Pascaline is a little bat who does not want to go to school. She wants to stay in her tree house with her parents. When her parents try to convince her, she says, “Never, not ever.” Her parents tell her to look out the window. All the other forest animals are on their way to school.
“You’re going to learn so many things,” her parents insist. Pascaline grabs on to the furniture. “And you’ll make . . .” She clenches the curtains. “. . . lots of friends!” Pascaline clutches the carpet. “No!”
Pascaline yells so loud that her parents shrivel up and become as tiny as two peanuts. She puts them under her wing and takes them to school with her. The other little bats at bat school are miserable and crying, but not Pascaline. Her parents giggle, whistle, and get dizzy when Pascaline wants to practice flying. “But Pascaline can’t do anything with her two grumpy parents attached to her.”
Lunch is served—pea soup. Pascaline’s mom wants a salad instead. Dad jumps into the soup. At naptime, everyone sleeps except Pascaline, who has her parents to hold as she hangs upside-down. When school is over, Pascaline has no one to pick her up. On the walk home, her parents stretch and turn back to their normal sizes. They offer to go back to school with her the next day.
“Never, not ever.”
The art is a charmer from beginning to end. Pascaline is a cute bat with hot pink wings and tiny hands at her wingtips. Her parents’ wings look more like action hero capes, one teal and the other pale pink. The trees in the forest and tree house have charcoal-looking edges (done with wax pencils). The other bats are drawn in earthy tones. The circle time takes place on a curving tree branch, and the teacher wears glasses with blue frames. Lunch is served at red toadstool tables. Nap time is two tiers of bats hanging upside-down. The end papers show Pascaline doing a wide variety of activities in little vignettes (25 in all): reading, drawing, dancing, convening with nature, fishing, reveling in a snowfall, doing a handstand, jumping in puddles, flying, even crying.
The story moves at just the right pace with clipped conversation between parents and child. At first, Pascaline thinks she needs her parents to go with her but comes to realize how much better her school day would be without them. The twist will keep readers coming back for more. The title alone is what will draw both parents and kids to the book. They will delight in the absurdity of it all, anchored in realism. Talking bats. Shrinking bats. Bats with fuchsia wings, on a swing. Hurray for Pascaline!