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Once a month until the age of 5, children living in Rotherham are given a free gift of a book from the Imagination Library, a scheme set up and funded by Dolly Parton to support childrens learning in our deprived community. Books are not something that we are short of within our home anyway, but by being registered with this scheme we get some unusual ones that perhaps we wouldn't have chosen for ourselves.
We've had a couple of books by Jeanne Willis, but this is the most fun of the ones we have read, and is one that is selected often at bedtime due to its silly rhyming text and the cute pictures in it. Published by Puffin, this book has a RRP of £6.99, and I think at this price it is worth it for the quality of the book and the enjoyment my children have had from it.
The main character is Willaby Wallaby, a young male Wallaby who is finding his mothers pouch a bit uncomfortable. He heads of to the Blue Billabong trying to find a place he can rest. There are some wonderful moments as he tries out some other Mummy marsupials pouches, only to find that they are not right either.
Willaby is not used to being out on his own, and there are dangers along the way which makes him confide in his mother that there is an 'Ouch in his Pouch', at which point his mother explains why and he is happy again.
For me, the story is quite silly, and what attracts my sons to this one is the silly text describing Willaby's mood and the lovely pictures which are matched perfectly to the text in my opinion. The text is not always linear on the page, instead being written at jaunty angles around this leggy creature who is at that gangly stage of growth where limbs are all over the place.
For example, "Now it is horribly knobbly. Now it is wodgy and wedgy and wriggly. No wonder Willaby Wallaby is niggly." It shows how sometimes the words are not quite the conventional word we might use to describe something, but it is very like how a child will explain a situation.
My children like the fun to this, and it probably helps that I put on voices when reading to them, to show how Willaby is feeling at the time, but also the other animals in the story, to help them understand whether the other creatures are trustworthy or not.
Jeanne Willis is not as well known to me as other childrens authors, but this is a fantastic book which is as thoughtfully and well written as any book by the likes of Julia Donaldson, and I feel it appeals to my kids because they have been brought up reading a lot of her work, and this is a little similar in pace and tone, but a little more grown up too. My children love words - they are always trying to spell out words themselves now, and they like the quirky choices in this book.
I think most children would like this one - it would appeal to girls and boys, and I think younger children would like the speech pattern and grow into it, but children aged about 4-6 will really get the meaning to the story as you read it.