Search This Blog

Tuesday, 22 August 2017


Author and Illustrator: Alex T Smith
Publisher: Scholastic Children's Books, 2009

I discovered this book in a weekly library haul; shove as many books in a calico bag in between swimming lessons and getting the kids home for tea, library trip enroute, don't ask questions just try the book stash out, one by one, at home. The best books are read more than once, the very best books go on a re-loan, and exceptional books are returned, and a forever copy bought online within a week. I think I had ordered a forever copy of this book within an hour; as my now eight year old says, 'it's epic.'

Home is a book about friendship, and what it means to feel 'at home'. Four unlikely friends, live contently together, until their aspirations and interests in life lead them to yearn for different things; wanting to be a pirate, wanting to yodel in the mountains, a desire to live in a dark cave and aspirations of life in the big city, going to parties. The cartoon critters, a badger, bear, deer and rabbit, discuss, argue and then fight, eventually deciding to go their separate ways but all taking a physical piece of the share house with them; the floor, door, windows and door. Each animal is seen going off in a huff, determined to take their part of the house with them. Double page split images work to great effect here, with the landscape backdrop differing to exaggerate the different destinations of the characters. Eventually the creatures realise and admit they've made a mistake, find resolution and resolve to return and apologise to each other: fantastic! The perfect model of any friend and / or sibling relationship.  

This is a fast paced and witty book, feeling very original in its togetherness -separation and 
'reunification with adjustments' storyline. The tone of the book is very 'matter of fact' rather than urgent and concerned, which makes the story very funny, presenting the obscure events, such as the pompous and bossy badger wanting to 'boogie woogie' all night long, as everyday. I especially like the jibe, 'it was as if they had never seen a  badger boogie-woogie before!' emphasising how alien a new beginning is for the friends, away from each other, as they conclude that the new starts all have drawbacks, with the badger for example, finding that people in the city 'weren't friendly.'  As with most of his work Alex T Smith makes great use of societal references and stereotypes here; he's a great author-comedian in my mind. 

'Home' is full of the unexpected, and yet the message is one of familiarity and belonging. It's a great book for young children in that it promotes feeling secure and concludes that 'home' doesn't need to be a static 'thing', physically a house can change its shape and form but it's the relationships that drive the home that count. A great book to use for children moving house, and also for talking about attachments and belonging. Aside from all this, just a fantastic book to read aloud. Assign each character an accent and have fun performing this one- it's pure comedy, laugh out loud. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Pig's Knickers

Author: Jonathan Emmett
Illustrator: Vanessa Cabban
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, London, 2010

This is a fantastic, cheeky, witty children's book, written as much for the kids as their reading adult. The protagonist, pig, is possibly my favourite preschool book character of all time; theatrical, flamboyant, camp, outlandish. The book starts with a fairly forlorn pig 'feeling sorry for himself' bored with the way he looks, sat in the troth by his pig style on Hilltop Farm. (Appearance angst in a children's book, how modern!) A pair of knickers then blows from the farm washing line on to the head of pig. After working out how to wear the knickers a delighted pig begins his excited escapade around the farmyard, dancing, cartwheeling, and strutting around in his knickers and new found self confidence. Along the way pig meets several farmyard friends, inviting each to comment on his knickers. Each animal makes a dry comment about what they see, and pig eventually beds down for the night with the knickers airing on the fence. An unexpected twist in the morning sees the knickers gone, and a distraught pig is then comforted and reassured by his friends that with or without knickers it is he who is 'special' not the red polka dot knickers alone. 

This fabulous 'clothes don't maketh the man', 'beauty is not skin deep' moral for young children is superbly placed in this self conscious age, as is having a trans dressing pig lead. The story is fresh and welcome at a time when dialogues on identity, sexuality, gender are thankfully opening up. While the humour in the story is technically about the lead character, outlandish pig, he's a lovable character, emotional, and rallied round by his friends. The book is thus as much about friendship, liking people for who they are not how they look, as my more adult interpretation of identity. Acceptance and friendship are of course very useful not to mention computable messages for children of preschool age. 

The neat, water colour and pen illustrations in the book match the 'beauty is not skin deep' message in the story well, with pig characterised as bulbous. The soft colours and whispy farm yard animals give the book an aesthetic of ordinariness (as a children's book) but the story is anything but. There's a fantastic eyebrow raising final joke in the story, that in my experience of reading this aloud, children rarely get; I like the book all the more for this moment. This is a joy of a book to read aloud, but pig deserves a really theatrical performance, so please do him good justice. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...