In this irresistibly charming chapter book, the charismatic Violet Mackerel knows how to stay upbeat—even when her throat feels as if there’s a cactus in it!
Seven-year-old Violet Mackerel has a new theory: If someone has a problem and you give them something small, like a feather, or a pebble, or a purple lozenge, that small thing might have a strange and special way of helping them.
Violet gets the chance to put “The Theory of Giving Small Things” to the test when a bad case of tonsillitis requires the removal of her tonsils, and she suspects that the purple lozenge from Doctor Singh may help her in quite an extraordinary way. And indeed, with a freezer stocked with breakfast ice cream, a wonderful new friend in the waiting room, and the certainty that surgery will transform her voice into that of an opera singer on the radio, Violet’s recovery proves more than extraordinary—it is, unquestionably, remarkable.
It feels awful to talk, terrible to swallow, and horrible to eat.
Her older sister, Nicola, and her brother, Dylan, have just left for school. Violet has been home from school all week, and today Mama is taking her to see Dr. Singh.
Violet quite likes Dr. Singh because he asks good questions, such as “Would you like to hear your heartbeat through my stethoscope?” and “Do you want to see how my examination table goes up and down?”
Also, if you meet him for the first time when you are only five years old, and you wonder, since his name sounds like “sing,” if he might be a singing sort of doctor, he doesn’t mind making up a little tune such as:
When Violet and Mama get to the doctor’s office, they sit in the waiting room. Mama knits a few rows of a soft, rosy cardigan. She is a very good knitter.
Soon the lady at the desk says, “Violet Mackerel,” which means it is time for Violet and Mama to go and see Dr. Singh.
“How are you this morning?” he asks, feeling her forehead.
“My throat hurts,” croaks Violet, “and it feels as if there is a cactus in it.”
Dr. Singh presses a big, flat Popsicle stick on her tongue.
“Say ahhhh,” he says.
“Ahhhh,” says Violet.
“And again,” says Dr. Singh.
“Ahhhh,” says Violet.
“Hmm,” says Dr. Singh, who has been looking down Violet’s throat. “I’m afraid that’s a bad case of tonsillitis.”
Violet has had tonsillitis before. It is when two bits at the back of your throat, which are called tonsils, swell up and feel as though you have swallowed a cactus.
“I’ll give you some lozenges for now, to help with the prickles,” says Dr. Singh, “but I think it would be a good idea to have your tonsils taken out.”
Violet, however, does not think this is a good idea. She generally prefers not to have things taken out.
“It’s a very simple operation,” explains Dr. Singh, “and you’ll be asleep all the way through it. And then you’ll need a while at home afterward, resting and eating ice cream.”
Violet has never been in the hospital before and she quite likes ice cream.
“Anything else?” she asks.
Dr. Singh thinks.
“Well,” he says, “some people find that their voices change a little bit after they have their tonsils out.”
This is very interesting to Violet, who always thinks about singing when she sees Dr. Singh, even though she knows now that he is not really a singing sort of doctor.
Violet thinks how exciting it would be if, when she was singing in the bath, her voice carried down into the garden and all the way along the street. The neighbors would say, “Who is doing that lovely opera singing?” and Mama would say, “Oh, that is Violet. She always sings like that since she had her tonsils out and soon she is going to be a real opera singer on the radio.”
“How soon could I be an opera singer on the radio?” croaks Violet.
“Well, most people feel completely better in a couple of weeks,” says Dr. Singh. “I’m not sure about opera singing, but I have certainly seen some remarkable recoveries in my time.”
Violet decides that hers will be the most remarkable recovery Dr. Singh has ever seen in his time.
“Until then,” he says, “would you like pink throat lozenges that taste like strawberries, or purple throat lozenges that taste like grapes?”
Violet thinks it is an excellent question.
“Purple, please,” she says.
Dr. Singh pops open a packet of lozenges and gives one to Violet so it can start soothing her throat prickles right away. The purple lozenge looks like a precious crystal in her palm.
Anna Branford was born on the Isle of Man and spent parts of her childhood in Africa and in Papua New Guinea. Now she lives in Melbourne, Australia, with a large black cat called Florence. She writes, drinks cups of tea in her garden, and makes dolls and other small things, which she sells at early morning markets.Anna is the author of the Violet Mackerel series. Visit her at AnnaBranford.com.
Elanna Allen lives in New York with her husband and sons, where she writes and illustrates children’s books and designs characters for television. She wrote and illustrated Itsy Mitsy Runs Away and has created characters for Disney, Nickelodeon, and PBS. Stop by and say hi at ElannaAllen.com.
"Another volume in a successful Australian series. Allen’s grayscale drawings...both support and add appeal. This agreeable account should attract new Violet Mackerel followers."
– Kirkus Reviews, January 2013
"Violet is worried about getting her tonsils removed, even with promises of ice cream.... Young readers will identify with her nerves and laugh at her description of feeling rhinoceroses in her belly rather than butterflies.... Violet’s kind, patient mother shines in the story, as Branford once again creates a warm world for Violet, one in which the protagonist’s optimism spreads to others without any hint of the saccharine. Many new readers will identify with the story, enjoy the accessible vocabulary, and appreciate the expressive illustrations...that grace almost every spread."
– The Horn Book, January/February 2013
“Violet is a truly charming kid to whom many young readers will relate. Her habit of creative thinking and theory formation, evident in the previous book as well, makes her a useful model as a problem-solver…. The gentle humor, numerous illustrations, short length, and large type will make this very accessible to novice chapter book readers; the skillful writing and concise but detailed characterizations make it worth their time.”
– The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“This early chapter book, featuring pencil illustrations, will be a hit with fans of Amber Brown and Clementine.”
– School Library Journal, February 2013
"This follow-up to Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot (2012) retains all the charm and tenderness that made the first book such a treat and a welcome addition to books for early chapter-book readers. The illustrations, which sometimes work in place of the text, emphasize the story’s whimsical nature. Children facing their own trip to the hospital will find comfort in Violet’s experience, which is approached realistically yet gently."
– Booklist Online, March 2013
"The Violet Mackerel books are truly a gift to readers. The stories are unique and entertaining, and Violet is a wonderfully special person who is full of surprises. Just like the first Violet Mackerel book, this title will make readers feel happy inside, and it will remind them to appreciate and celebrate the Giving Small Things moments in their lives."