Marine Rivoal’s Three Little Peas is a book about friendship, family and trust. It takes place in an unknown garden in which plant life is characterized as grey and aseptic. Two little peas, a luscious, vibrant green, pop out of their pods of oppression to explore the hostile land. The two little peas, almost identical in form except for a few minute details requiring a lot of time to distinguish, brave the monsters lying beyond the safety of their pod. They scale up precipitous trees, ere under poisonous mushrooms and trudge through tall grass. All is well until the two peas wander too high up and must descend back down to the ground where predators such as grasshoppers, spiders and moles covet the taste of two juicy crunchy peas. They roll for their lives, finding refuge in an underground hole and go to “sleep” to sprout a pea plant, coloured green, in contrast to the bland environment. The story ends happily as the two peas succeed in prolonging their legacy by producing more children, one of which, popping out of a pod, is the third one.
From the moment I picked up this book to read for my English class Picture Books and Their Meaning, I knew it was the right choice. The first impression it gave me was finding happiness in a desolate world devoid of sympathy because of the juxtaposition of the colours green and grey. The colour scheme repeats itself throughout the whole book to signify that hope is never lost even if in perdition. In addition, the reader’s attention are drawn towards the peas and thus not towards the miserable atmosphere of the garden. On another note, the art style is impressive. The backgrounds are drawings are extremely detailed; it is as if you can feel the grainy texture of soil through your fingers when flipping a page. The technique she uses is called etching, but Rivoal does it in her own way in which he creates depressions and bumps, in a zinc plate to create the images. She does this by hand using tape. In other words, she must create a stamp of sorts in a zinc plate. The varied texture therefore creates shades of colour. Kudos to the author, because every shred of grass or petal must have taken a lifetime to create.
Story wise, the two peas on the cover when the book is named Three Little Peas plunge the readers into an intricate plot line. Unending action keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The story’s real meaning however lies behind the illustrations the author put so much time into. The peas represent for me immigrants who have arrived in their new home. They constantly stick out, conveyed by their green colour, and stick together because the environment is hostile as they go through the challenges of life together. They end up in a safe place and build a community there, dieing in the process. Nevertheless, because of their sacrifice, the third pea is born into a safe region where it can live life without worry. The third pea is in effect the bud of hope of a stable life that children of future generations are entrusted with.
Tension, plot, art, meaning and character development (even if the only two apparent emotions expressed by the two peas are a smile and a frown) make this book nothing short of a masterpiece. Its message is powerful: together, we can achieve great things. I would recommend his book to anyone who is looking for an adventure. Next week, we look at Three Little Pigs to see if it can even compare to this chef-d’oeuvre.
Written By: Charlie Tang