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'What!' is a delightful picture book written by Kate Lum and illustrated by Adrian Johnson. The book only has two characters and tells the story of what happened one night when a small boy called Patrick went to stay with his granny. Granny is depicted as a fairly typical granny with permed grey hair, glasses and sensible shoes who is never to be seen without her handbag. However it soon turns out that she is no ordinary granny as events in the story demonstrate.
The story starts with Granny telling Patrick that it is getting dark and suggesting that he goes to bed. His response is 'But Granny! I don't HAVE a bed!' Her reply is 'WHAT!!!?' but she takes it all in her stride, dashes out to the woods where she chops down some trees, then gets out her hammer and nails and makes him a bed. She then tries to get him to go to bed again and lie on his pillow and go to sleep. It then transpires that he has no pillow so she dashes out and plucks some chickens, sews up a cloth and makes him a pillow. The same thing happens when she mentions a blanket and a teddy bear and each time she goes to great extremes to make him these things. Finally, he has everything he needs for a good night's sleep but, as Patrick points out to Granny, by then it is morning! At this there is one final despairing cry of 'WHAAAT!!!???' and she is last seen disappearing into the distance almost tearing her hair out!
This is a very funny and entertaining story which both my daughters enjoyed very much. They found it hilarious that Patrick did not have a bed, a pillow, a blanket or a teddy and loved watching Granny's efforts to make them all. The illustrations really contribute to the humour of the story as they exaggerate Granny's efforts particularly when the teddy bear she sews is so big that she has to climb a step ladder in order to attach its eyes. We love the pictures of Granny when she is seen in silhouette dashing into the forest or the hen house wielding various implements such as an axe or shears but always holding her handbag. There are many pictures to enjoy and they all contain a great amount of detail and humour.
Most enjoyable though is the language which is quite straightforward but repetitive so it does not take long before your children will start wanting to join in. For each of Granny's attempts to get Patrick into bed, his response is 'But Granny...' It did not take my three year old long to catch on to this and now she loves joining in with this line which is repeated throughout. There is also a cumulative effect as each time Granny tells him to go to bed she adds something else to the list of things he must do. This is crucial to the story because its always the last thing on the list that Patrick does not have. The second time we read the story both my daughters were using these clues to predict what would happen next. They loved doing this especially when they were right.
Best of all are Granny's responses. Every time she says 'What?' it gets more desperate. You can tell this as more and more letters are added into the word as well as lots of exclamation and question marks. Also it's always written in capitals and these get bigger and bigger as the story goes on. My girls love joining in with these and making their own voices louder and more despairing too.
Overall, these is a very enjoyable book to share with young children. We have all loved reading it and each time there is something else to notice. Be warned though, it may give your child some ideas for excuses not to go to bed!
A version of this review has previously appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk under my name.