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In our perennial pursuit of children’s books that address true-to-life issues, my wife and I recently stumbled across a gem at the library called Yours Truly, Louisa by Simon Puttock. The story explores a theme of passive aggression, which is not normally seen in children’s books, but it should be, given how pervasive an issue it is (and ultimately a dead end). As such, there is a theological undercarriage of the law, since passive aggressive communication tends to be a symptom of legalism. The book has a hopeful (almost Biblical) ending, though, that makes it all the more worthwhile.

Louisa the picky pig is constantly dissatisfied with the appearance of the farm where she lives, so she writes anonymous letters to the farm’s owner, Farmer Joe.

Dear Farmer Joe, The farm is filthy. Please clean it up at once! Yours truly, Disgruntled!

Farmer Joe tries in each instance to live up to the high standards of Disgruntled!, but he constantly falls short.

Dear Farmer Joe, A good effort, but I look around and what do I see? The fields could use a trim (turnips are such untidy vegetables) and there are cow pies everywhere. While you’re at it, the sheep are in terrible need of haircuts. Yours truly, Disgruntled!

His attempts to live up to Louisa’s demand for perfection are in vain. Naturally he gives up. Who can’t relate?!

‘Enough,’ shouted Farmer Joe, ‘is enough! This is a FARM, not a beauty parlor!’ He slammed the door and sat down and sulked … But then he had an idea. He got a great big piece of paper and wrote on it in great big letters, ‘Dear Disgruntled, If you don’t like it, you can clean it up yourself. Sincerely, Farmer Joe.’

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In response, Louisa leaves the farm for the big city, but she quickly realizes that the farm isn’t so bad in comparison. The problem was inside her all along. Unfortunately, she doesn’t quite learn this lesson (at least not yet).

The city was smoky and smoggy and smelly. And Louisa wasn’t pleased with it at all … And the very next day she set off back to the farm.

Thus, like the so-called Prodigal Son before her, Louisa returns to the farm. Upon arrival, she finds a bucket waiting for her with rubber gloves, a brush, and some soap with a note from Farmer Joe that reads, “To Louisa love farmer Joe.” In other words, Farmer Joe accepts (and loves) Disgruntled Louisa for who she is: A neat-nick. Rather than attempt to change her behavior, the only thing that might change Louisa’s unsatisfied heart is his unexpected love.

My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter asked me to read Yours Truly, Louisa several times in a row the day we brought it home, so something must have touched her. When I asked her what she liked about the book, she said, the pig. The themes might have gone over her head, but I’m hoping stories like this one make their indelible mark over time.

For more children’s book recommendations, keep an eye on this growing Pintrest board I’m curating.