Cheyney McDonnell: Thank you for feeding Freckle

Illustrated by the author

Published by Five Mile, 2020

While the children were growing up, we had a variety of small pets that became part of the family. Hermit crabs, goldfish, guinea pigs and one very large dwarf rabbit called Muffin. She was white, fluffy, adorable and not very smart! Having them looked after while we were on holidays was always on the list of things to do before we headed off to distant hills.

More recently I have had the privilege of looking after a young friend’s strawberry plant (Uncle Barry) while he was on holiday with his family. I was impressed when I received a short note explaining how to care for Uncle Barry. Plants, like animals, need water, sunshine, attention and just the right amount of water and food.

This interactive picture book by Cheyney Mc Donnell is all about looking after Freckle the cat and the reader is the care giver. The dates are marked on the calendar and the house is at the end of a windy road you can trace with your finger.

The key to the house is under the flowerpot and you use it to open the green door. It’s so dark inside that the reader has to clap their hands two times to turn on the light. Freckle’s food is in the cupboard and with the help of some clever flaps and folds, it goes into the bowl for Freckle to eat. Freckle needs a sleep after lunch and afterwards it’s time to play with toys before putting them all away again. Before you go, you just might see where Freckle’s freckle is! And don’t forget to clap two times again to turn off the lights.

The format of this picture book is just right for little hands and the pages are made of thick, durable paper that won’t tear easily while all the flaps and folds are investigated. The illustrations are clear and uncomplicated, complimenting the text and reinforcing the written instructions, which are expressed with kindness and care.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 1-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books that encourage physical and imaginative interactivity which is especially helpful for young readers with lots of energy:

How Many Bugs in a Box? A Pop Up Counting Book by David Carter

Tap the Magic Tree
by Christie Matheson

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin Illustrated by Scott Menchin

I Spy Little Bunnies Jean Marzollo Illustrated by Walter Wick

This Book Just Stole My Cat
by Richard Byrne

The Game of Finger Worms
by Herve Tullet

Plant the Tiny Seed
by Christie Matheson

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet

The Pop-Up Dear Zoo
by Rod Campbell

Don’t Wake the Dragon
by Bianca Schulze
Illustrated by Samara Hardy

Good Morning Yoga: a Pose by Pose Wake Up Story
by Mariam Gates
Illustrated by Sarah Jane Hindler

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Animal Alphabet: Slide and Seek the ABC’s by Alex Lluch

Don’t Wake Up the Tiger
by Britta Teckentrup

Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda

That’s Not My Robot by Fiona Watt Illustrated by Rachel Wells

David Biedrzycki: SumoKitty

Illustrated by the author

Published by Charlesbridge, 2019

It’s not often that I come across a picture book that addresses so many teachable values in life. SumoKitty oozes wisdom about humility, resilience, resourcefulness, satisfaction, complacency, opportunism and the value of hard work. Not forgetting the importance of enjoying what you eat!

There are a number of wise sayings in the story, but my favourite one is at the beginning: “’Fall down seven times; get up eight’. It means never give up.”

No matter what your age, we can all benefit from hearing that once in our lives. Because who of us has not come to a crossroad, a decision that rests on staying or leaving, when either path seems right, and the only decision we have to make is choosing which way to go forward?

We meet SumoKitty as a stray, who wanders into the heya (training centre) of a group of sumo wrestlers. Enticed by the wonderful smells of fish, noodles and plates of chicken, SumoKitty takes up residence and enjoys feasting on the culinary delights that are served up daily. One day, however, he is caught by the Okamisan (manager of the heya). To eat and earn his keep, SumoKitty must now work and rid the centre of all the mice which Kuma the sumo wrestler is so fearful of.

SumoKitty does the job well and gets so fat and lazy, that the mice who were chased away, start to come back. Quick as a flash, SumoKitty is tossed out of the heya, and the good fortune which was so abundant, is lost once again.

Here is the lesson for SumoKitty: stay lost and become a stray for the second time or take the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and move toward his heart’s desire. With the help of his friend Kuma, who has his own fears to face, SumoKitty finds a way forward. It takes hard work, perseverance and dedication, but combined with a little ingenuity and courage, SumoKitty and Kuma stand tall again.

I can highly recommend this book for children 5-10 years, the illustrations cleverly enhance the text, SumoKitty is sooo cute, and there is a photo at the end of the story of Sox, the original SumoKitty!

Here are my recommendations for more stories about resilience and how the vicissitudes of life have been navigated by others.

I have recommended Ella Holcombe’s picture book about her experience in the Black Saturday fires of 2009, I would advise adults to read it before sharing Ella’s memories of this event with young readers.

One Step at a Time
by Jane Jolly
Illustrated by
Sally Heinrich
How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham
The House on the Mountain
by Ella Holcombe
Illustrated by
David Cox
Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten
by Bob Graham
Good Enough for a
Sheep Station by
David Cox
The Lion and the Mouse
by Jerry Pinkney
The Little Refugee
by Anh Do and
Suzanne Do
Illustrated by
Bruce Whatley