I'm unsure when I bought "What Use is a Moose?" to add to my huge moose book collection, as I don't appear to have bought it through Amazon (it's not in my history, a history which is quite frankly worrying to view when you see just how many moose books I've purchased over the years!) It was first published in 1996, and my edition was published in 2001 by Walker books (there is a bear logo which parents might be familiar with) although it has also been published by Sainsbury's. Inside, there is a page which says "This Walker Book Belongs To", I haven't yet filled in my name - I should do really so that no one steals it.
"What Use is a Moose?" is not to be confused with "The Useful Moose", "Uses for Mooses" (although I should point out here that the plural of moose is moose), "What Good is a Moose?" and "How is a Moose like a Goose?" - books which I also have in my collection, obviously!
---The layout, illustrations and text---
The blurb on the back says ' "If you can find a use for your moose, he can stay," Mum tells Jack when he brings a moose home one day. But what use is a moose? Jack and the moose do their best to find out - with uproarious results!'
This sets the scene nicely for the 24 pages of story, a combination of big double paged picture spreads and smaller pictures interspersed with text. The text on some pages simply says "That was no use!", but on others there is a bit more.
Although the story doesn't rhyme in a pattern, there is a lot of use (or should I say moose) of rhyme - moose and use in particular. There is a lot of use (do you see what I've done there?!) of repetition, and I can imagine the excitement for children when they guess what is going to be said next.
I hear that the font used is important in children's books. Now, this is definitely a book to be read to a child rather than by a child (and some of the language used, for instance 'chauffeur' isn't easy for a child in the age range this is suitable for - although I'd say it has a quite wide age suitability from about 2-7 depending on what discussion is prompted from reading), but the text is fairly clear and could (I think) reasonably easily be followed by a child learning to read.
The illustrations by Arthur Robbins are fantastic and very funny. They have a feel of Quentin Blake about them and they really bring the story to life. There is so much detail in them - children (and you) will find new things each time they look at the pictures, and you could even make up 'Where's Wally' type games where you ask your child to locate a specific item in each picture.
---The Story, and my views---
One day Jack made friends with a moose in the woods, so he brought the moose home - this must be a scenario familiar to many parents. Not necessarily a moose...but bringing home anything which doesn't seem to have much of a use. I can hear the parents among us groaning...or those in close relationships with hoarders of any age.
Jack and the moose look for numerous uses for the moose so that Jack's mum will let the moose stay - hanging out washing, driving Jack's mum around, gardening, cooking, housework...all fail, and all cause increasing destruction, and test Jack's mum's patience until she can't take it anymore, and she sends the moose away. This is the sad point in the story, and always brings a lump to my throat...and I can't help but feel a bit annoyed at Jack's mum - after all, I love the moose too and I want him to stay.
But not to worry, when Jack's mum realises how much the moose means to Jack, she calls him back. And they all live happily ever after - actually, a sort of compromise is reached where the moose won't destroy the house any more. At the end of the day Jack loves the moose, and that is the use. People might ask me what use is my extensive moose collection. The same is true here - I love my moose (see, as said the plural of moose is moose)!
I realise that in the real-world it might not be so simple. Children (and adults too) bring home all sorts of things every day, and there just isn't enough time (or space) to love them all. However, Jack REALLY REALLY REALLY loves his moose (he even has a poster of the moose on his bedroom wall), and I think that his mother will be able to use this in the future when he brings other things or animals home - he can't keep everything, he must prioritise.
A nice touch to the book is that after the story there is a page where Martin Waddell talks about his inspiration behind the book (there is something sad and strange about moose - my sentiments exactly), and Arthur Robbins talks about the difficulties of drawing a moose (they don't stay still).
The RRP of this book is £4.99 - it's quite unusual in my moose collection being published in the UK (it's really refreshing having a UK-based book that refers to 'Mum' rather than 'Mom' too). Unfortunately it can't currently be bought new through Amazon, so you're looking at 1p used or £2.99 new PLUS £2.80 postage.
I hope my enthusiasm for this book has shone through in my review. I like the message that the story conveys, and the illustrations are fantastic. I can't wait to have children to read this to, and have visions of it becoming a firm favourite - whether my children like it or not! Although perhaps I might completely retract this review when I have a child who brings an animal home from the woods and wants to keep it just because they love it...and I hope this story won't go giving them any ideas...
I would highly recommend this book to moose-lovers and non-moose-lovers who want a lovely heart-warming and brilliantly illustrated tale to share with their children. However, if you don't want to go out of your way to purchase "What Use is a Moose?" I think it's still worth keeping an eye out for other stories written by Martin Waddell and books illustrated by Arthur Robbins.
I will award the book 5 out of 5 stars.