Wednesday 12 July 2017

Nits and Grubby Cuddly Toys - Reviews by Damian Harvey

Nits and grubby, cuddly toys aren't always the most welcome of things but they can feature in the lives of all children so it seems only right to put these two picture books together here - especially as both books show them from a different viewpoint.

There's Only One Scruffle - Written and Illustrated by Robert Dunn

Stories about a child's favourite toy are nothing new but I do like the way that Robert Dunn has paired Ellie, a slightly precocious, mischievous looking little girl, with her cuddly toy. As with many a child's favourite cuddly toy, Scruffle is tatty and threadbare, he has only one eye and a "very curious smell." Mum and Dad just don't understand why she loves him so much.

When Mum attempts to replace Scruffle with a big, new bear that smell of strawberries, Ellie is less than impressed. Mum isn't happy when Ellie asks if the new bear can be kept in the bin, and wisely explains that Ellie should at least play with the new cuddly toy for a while as she "won't know what he's really like until you've spent a little time together."

Ellie thinks about what Mum has said as she drags the new bear around with her - finally agreeing that she would like to play with it after all - even though he doesn't smell as fresh as he did. Mum looks horrified at the new toy which, by this time is covered in paint, mud and who knows what else. When Ellie happily declares that she couldn't possibly play with the new bear now, Mum sighs and finally asks Ellie why she loves her old toy so much. Ellie is now able to echo Mum's words of wisdom and handing Scruffle to her says "Well you won't know what he's really like until you've spent a little time together, will you?"

Children will easily identify with Ellie and her favourite, much loved toy and this book will spark talking points for use in the classroom about children's own experiences. There are even suggested talking points at  the end of the book to help with this.

Nat's Naughty Nits - written by Giles Andreae and Illustrated by Jess Mikhail

Nits are even less popular than a child's much loved smelly toy but Giles Andreae and Jess Mikhail have produced a picture book here that might just help people see these unwanted pests in a slightly different light.

On the first page we are greeted by Nat, a friendly, if somewhat disheveled and grubby looking young boy, clutching a magnifying glass and a book about bugs. Nat is going into the garden and wants us to come and play with him. By contrast we can see Nat's sister, clean and fresh faced as she dances with a doll in one hand and a freshly picked flower in the other.

Nat's sister clearly doesn't have a care in the world, unlike Nat himself who, on the second page, has developed an itch. Nat quickly realises that he has got a nit and further inspection under his microscope reveals that his hair is full of them. If you aren't itching by this stage in the book, you soon will be. Giles Andreae and Jess Mikhail show us that nits don't just crawl around in your hair - to them your hair is a whole universe. There are nits playing chase and flying rockets into space. We see nits playing football, eating sweets, making pancakes and a whole host of things. Children will delight in seeing all of the things that nots get up to and will no doubt giggle at the thought of them playing kiss chase, sitting on the toilet and even seeing a shy looking "Nit[s] in the nuddy when there's no one else around."

Thankfully, Nat's Mum steps in "with her shampoo and her comb" and soon the nits have their bags packed and are heading home. But just where will they go?

Children will enjoy the simple rhyming text, bright illustrations and will certainly find lots to laugh at in this itch infested book.  

You can follow Damian on Twitter @damianjharvey

And visit his website 


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