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Friday, 7 April 2017


Author and Illustrator: Catherine Rayner
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books, 2009

This is a fun, three-minute read for preschoolers. The concept, a 'rather large' and 'very determined' moose called Ernest puzzling over how he might fit himself into the book, feels original. The quirkiness increases once Ernest's 'little friend has a BIG IDEA!' (to make the page larger by sticking bits of paper together, simple and effective). 

The chipmunk friend and Ernest are, interestingly, both silent characters, with a third unseen narration voice. In that respect the book is a little reminiscent of the American classic 'if you give a Mouse a Cookie' by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (1985). 
What's lovely about this book is the utter simplicity of the story, but the big punch of a message it leaves behind. Firstly, the little friend is always there, tireless in her efforts to help Ernest.   

Ernest also tries hard, using all his efforts to contort himself onto the page. On first reading, we don't really appreciate what the creatures are trying to achieve, as we only see a fragment of Ernest the moose, a little at a time, so we can't really appreciate his true size. The book is humorous in this way, on one page, we see just his bottom, on another 'Ernest's middle fits in easily, but what about the rest of him?' The use of rhetoric directed at this young audience is again, fun; my children certainly try to offer suggestions to these questions 'get a digger!' (their standard line to most things). 

In terms of the writing, less is certainly more here, so very in keeping with the message of the book; 'good things come in small packages'. Each page carries one short line, and there's some lovely vibrant verbs in use, namely 'shimmy, shuffle and shunt' mirrored on the next page by 'squidge, squodge and squeeze.' Capitalisation and different font sizes are also abundunt. 

The illustrations are initially very modest, simple multi-tonal browns and beige against a light green background, but looking closer there's a lot of texture in the pictures with crayon in part and cracked oil paint behind pencil and pen on top of that. The final page, the solution to fitting Ernest in the book, is a fold out approximately A2 size page. This big reveal is incredibly exciting for little ones, not knowing what's under the folds (maybe a slightly gimmicky ending though). Equally, a large loose page is not safe with toddlers, and our version of the book has ripped many many times. I've sellotaped it together, which in way, just authenticates the story-line, as the chipmunk has sellotaped extra paper into the page in order that Ernest can fit.  

In all, a book about persistence and will power getting you where you want to be, a moral about not giving up and a parting message about friendship in that dear friends stand close and help and support us to the very end.   

If you like this you might also like: Shark in the Park by Nick Sharrat

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