Lizs Book Snuggery

Birth, Rebirth and Resurrection in a Perfect Picture Book for Holy Week.

Petook : An Easter Story

By Caryll Houselander; illustrated by Tomie dePaola

I recently stumbled upon this Easter book from 1988, and recognizing the author as Caryll Houselander, spiritual author, counselor, and artist, I was doubly surprised to see its illustrator was none other than renowned author/illustrator, Tomie dePaola.

It is almost one year to the day that Tomie dePaola, beloved children’s author/illustrator and friend passed.

It seems to me more than fitting that I repost this beautiful picture book that he illustrated to perfection, relating a meeting in Christ’s young life in a vineyard with a rooster and suggests His death in a way that is accessible and far from frightening to young readers.

In fact, it is as renewing as the cycle of nature, and heartening as the resurrection that it precedes.

For parents and grands looking to introduce the “new life” Christian story of the resurrection, minus some of the details that young readers may not be ready to hear, this is a book that handles it well.

Listen to Tomie’s note at the book’s rear:

We chose Petook because

of its Easter message of birth,

rebirth, and resurrection.

Petook’s joy at the emergence of

new life from the egg certainly

echoes the  joy of Christ’s

emergence from the tomb.

It also breathes new life into

the age-old symbol of the Easter

egg, helping the reader become

aware that it is more than just

the tasty chocolate treat that we

 associate with Easter today.

Without symbols such as this,

Christianity becomes pale.

Tomie dePaola

August 15, 1987

Meet Petook, a proud and happy father of a brood of twelve newly-hatched chicks in a vineyard. New mom, Martha, is just as proud:

           As for his wife Martha, the brown-

           speckled hen, plain and homely soul

           though she was, she had become all

           grand and important.



Amid all this joy and celebration, a stranger enters the vineyard. There are the clear impressions of a child’s feet coming from the road to Jerusalem. Petook’s fatherly concerns are evident:

               I am sure that they were a

              boy’s footsteps and boys are

              sometimes careless, even when

              they’re not cruel. He might tread

              on one of the chicks.


Trodden and crushed fruit in the vineyard confirms the intruder.

But, Petook need not have worried about this young visitor.

He displays gentle wonder at the sight of Martha gathering the chicks under her wings:

                His hands, which were thin

                and golden-colored, were

                spread out like protecting

                wings over Martha. His lips

                were slightly parted, his eyes

                shining. So rapt was he that

                Petook thought, “It must be

                the first time that he has seen

                a hen gathering her chickens.”



Instinctively, Petook knows that someone and something amazing, visited the vineyard, and he reacts in typical rooster fashion:


                  Petook preened himself.

                  He strutted up and down,

                  and round and round. He

                  noticed every detail of the

                  day, just as people notice

                  every detail of a picture if

                  it is rare and lovely and one

                  which may not be seen again.

                  …Suddenly for sheer joy,

                  Petook lifted his head and



Years pass, and Petook is now quite old, and yet he is aware of something in the air on a particular day that is an unease, and in the distance is the hill of Calvary where …the three tall trunks always stood. Only when someone was to die were they there.

Ms. Houselander’s picture book wisely does not belabor the death of the now-grown young visitor to the vineyard from years before, as it is only seen by Petook, distantly.

His reaction is one of sadness, yet expectant hope, at the new batch of chicks that wife, Martha, is about to hatch.

New life emerges from an egg for Petook and Martha on Easter morning, just as it does from another place of resurrection, seen in the distance, simultaneous to the hatchling’s arrival:

                Petook threw back his head

                and crowed and crowed and

                crowed. His red comb burned

                in glory, the white feathers in

                his plumage dazzled in the light,

                the new chicken danced at his

                feet. He crowed again and again.


                      It was Easter Morning.



For young parents attempting to emphasize the holy day aspects of the celebration of Easter, here is a thoughtful picture book allowing young readers a view of the miracle of resurrection through their faith beliefs, yet it is also mirrored and played out simultaneously in the relatable miracle of nature, providing the continuance and hope of new life.

And, this book has a greater resonance, still, for our family because of its opening locale in a vineyard, and also, much more importantly, this year, because of the passing on March 30, 2020 of its illustrator and literary picture book treasure and friend, Tomie dePaola.

For we are blessed to own a vineyard and can imagine the pages of “Petook” on Easter morning, as we walk among its vines.

But, we were doubly blessed to have found a friend in Tomie dePaola, whose gift to us of a rendering of St. Isadore, patron saint of farmers, sits in a favored niche, high in the vineyard.

Blessings, Tomie, this Holy Week.

We look forward with hope each day, as you taught us in “Petook.”

And for those who may be unaware, copies of the original printing in 1988 of “Petook” can be found but, they be quite pricey.

Renamed as “Petook the Rooster who Met Jesus;” it has been reissued in March 2021 by St. Ignatius Press and is now widely available.


  1. Rusty Browder on April 15, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Thank you, Tomie—and Liz. And Bob.

    • admin on April 15, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      Dear Rusty,
      I love this book and I sincerely hope that it finds its way into reprint. Its story is filled with warmth and gentleness, and for those families who are looking to approach Easter in a way that reflects spirituality and nature combined, this is the picture book.
      So many of the picture books we see today seem to have an aversion to being “text dense.” I just don’t get that approach for it seems that elongated narratives in some sense, if well done, also elongate a young reader’s attention span.
      Thank you for coming to Liz’s Book Snuggery and for leaving a comment. it gives me hope for the future of wonderful children’s books, which was the reason, ten years ago, for the birth of The Snuggery!

      Liz Shanks

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