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My Dad The Hero by Stella Gurney and Katharine McEwen

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Another Walker Books story, this time exploring the difficult theme of how to fit in at school when your family is different. Tariq’s dad speaks English with a Bengali accent, and some of his classmates tease Tariq. Then the teacher arranges for all the parents to come and tell the class about different jobs (what a great idea!) and Tariq’s dad is the first up. Tariq doesn’t give his dad the letter, in hope of avoiding more teasing, but he feels ashamed that he’s embarrassed by his own beloved dad. Luckily his dad finds the letter in the dustbin, magically understands the whole problem, and prepares an amazing puppet show all about being a taxi driver, complete with sweets made by Tariq’s mum. The class loves it and nobody teases Tariq any more. If it it all sounds too easy to those of us who recall school as a much more dog-eat-dog kind of place, well, all I can say is, maybe nowadays it is all much more inclusive and tolerant. Let’s hope so.

Nelson

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I like these Walker books for early readers. The stories are easy to understand, about topics that are relevant to a five- or six-year-old and pleasantly illustrated. Not extremely exciting, but that’s OK. I especially liked this one because it’s set in South Africa, where I grew up. Our heroine Flora is finally big enough to look after her little sister on the coach trip to her grandparents, but her Ouma’s rooster Nelson is too scary for her. Despite an alarming egg-dropping incident, the girls have lots of fun all summer and with Ouma’s help, one day Flora realises he’s just a ‘big chicken’. It’s a gentle tale that transported my daughter into happy memories of seaside visits to her own grandparents and egg-collecting on holiday. The words are just a bit too numerous and the sentences a little too complex for my daughter to tackle on her own just yet.

Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley

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Milo Armadillo

Milo Armadillo by Jean Fearnley


Here is a charming book about a little girl who just wants a fluffy pink bunny for a birthday present. Alas, as you might expect from the title, she doesn’t actually end up getting a fluffy pink bunny. Instead she gets an armadillo. It seems that fluffy pink bunnies are pretty hard to find, and though she searched high and low, not a single bunny was to be found. So her gran decided to knit her one. Well gran knitted and knitted, but somewhere along the way, she lost concentration a bit and the bunny turned into an armadillo.

When the big birthday arrives, young Tallulah opens up a box from dear old gran….and the initial excitement at seeing a bit of pink tail poking out the wrapping turns to disappointment as she sees the cute fluffy little armadillo. She’s a well brought up little thing though, and she doesn’t want to hurt gran’s feelings (good job there mum and dad!), so she keeps a stiff upper lip and starts to play with Milo the armadillo.

Now Milo is a pretty talented fluffy animal – he can do the high jump…..he can play the saxaphone….he makes a good pirate and great companion at the tea parties. But Tallulah can’t help letting slip that a rabbit would be a better jumper and musician. One day Tallulah meets all her little friends….and let me tell you something….it’s no wonder she couldn’t find a pink rabbit for her birthday….all her friends clearly bought them up. (Demand for fluffy pink bunnies is clearly pretty high. Expect price rises soon in accordance with basic supply and demand). Well, they all think Milo is the bees knees, but Tallulah is still feeling hardly done by….

“He’s cute” said her friends.
“But he’s no pink fluffy rabbit,” sighed Tallulah.

Well of course Milo decides to run away to get himself unravelled and re-knitted as a bunny, and Tallulah, having lost him, suddenly realises how much she loved him after all. But, it’s too late. Nah, just kidding, of course there’s a happy ending and they are re-united, and presumably nary another disparaging comparison to a fluffy pink rabbit was uttered again.

I liked this book – it’s charmingly illustrated. My daughter like it too and grabbed a couple of stuffed toys to accompany the tale. If you like your books with a moral, then this one has it – a good reminder to the little ones that they should both be thankful for gifts and also not hurt other people or armadillo’s feelings. And of course that age old “you don’t know what you’ve got till you’ve lost it” type thing. A good reminder too for the adults, that children are brutally honest.

The book has an added bonus of linking you to a pattern for Milo Armadillo, should you be handy with the knitting needles yourself and wish to patch one together for your progeny. Luckily, you can also get the pattern right here

Milo Armadillo in the UK
Milo Armadillo in the US