Up to something

by Oct 6, 2019Book Review, Fiction, Picture Book

Book Details

Up to something
Katrina McElvey, illus. Kirrili Lonergan. Chatswood, Australia: Exisle Publishing, hb, 978 1 9253 3570 5, 2019, £10.99, 36pp.
Picture book, fiction, 3-8 years

Dad and Billy are going to work together to build a kart for “the big race”. Dad thinks Billy is not old enough to be handling tools; but Billy is not content sweeping up and passing things.

While dad is concentrating on building the kart the usual way, Billy watches carefully. And, when Billy has watched enough, and while his dad is busy, off goes Billy to tackle an apparently unlikely set of materials and produce his own ingenious and eccentric kart. Kirrili Lonergan’s gently caricatured watercolour illustrations work perfectly with Katrina McKelvey’s quietly spoken text in acknowledging father and son’s mutual affection and their genuine desire to work together, even if their ideas on how that might happen are very different. While dad does not reprimand Billy for doing his own thing, neither do author and illustrator explicitly censure dad for not allowing Billy to be a real partner in their enterprise. In fact, dad is so appreciative of Billy’s solo effort that they agree to combine to make a super hybrid racer. Both carers and young readers will recognise what is happening here. Carers may feel gently but properly chastened and their charges encouraged in their independence. While both might wonder if the final result of dad and Billy’s merged designs would really cross the line in first place, they will certainly recognise a winning father and son relationship.

Review by Clive Barnes

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