It Was You, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester-Clark

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It Was You, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester-Clark

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: This is a simply but well written story for preschoolers combining every day life with a touch of magic. Would work well also for children beginning to read themselves. Pictures are clear and vivid, and the message ('take responsibility for your actions') will be relevant to every parent and child. Good for children, especially lively girls, aged 2 to 6.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: August 2016
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 000713097X

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Since we moved back to the UK three years ago I have been consistently delighted with the quality and variety of picture books for small children available in English. One of great discoveries was the Blue Kangaroo series by Emma Chichester-Clark.

This was the first Blue Kangaroo book we had. It had been borrowed a day before this review was written and had been read not less than 4 times in the following 24 hours. It is called 'It Was You, Blue Kangaroo' and belongs to the whole series of the Blue Kangaroo books by Emma Chichester Clark.

Lily is a little girl, could be 3 or 4 years old. Her favourite cuddly toy is a.... Yes, well guessed, a blue kangaroo. Now, Lily has a habit - like many independent-minded little girls - of getting into trouble. In the course of the story she floods the kitchen, causes the cat to pull down a curtain pole with the curtain attached, sticks a bucket on her baby brother's head and throws all the clothes from her chest of drawers out of the window ... and who is to blame? Oh, yes: it was YOU Blue Kangaroo! Blue Kangaroo says nothing... The fun and the blaming ends though when the more and more exasperated mother sends Lily to bed on her own and puts the blue kangaroo high up on the bookshelf, out of Lily's reach. Eventually they get reunited and the mother gets placated as the kangaroo climbs down during the night and pushes a drawing with a message saying: 'sorry' under the Mother's door...

The story is not rhymed but it is told well enough in simple but not dumbed-down prose, with some nice rhythm to it. The illustrations are colourful and vivid, with enough detail to engage and hold children's interest. The letters are large and the book could be probably read by a child beginning to learn to read assuming the child in question was quite young as it is a really a pre-schooler's story.

It Was You Blue Kangaroo was an instant and enthusiastic success when my daughter was 3 years old and she seemed absolutely enchanted both by the story and the execution. The book seemed to be perfectly matched to her developmental stage and she was fascinated by Lily's antics, moved by her sadness after the kangaroo was removed and rejoiced when Lily and the toy were reunited. I am not sure to what extent she understood one of the main moral of the story (you shouldn't blame others for your transgressions) and to what extent she thought the 'sorry' related just to Lily's naughtiness in general but she seemed to be learning something. She was also very eloquent and eager to talk about what was happening and make judgements about Lily's behaviour in the style of: Giving dollies a bath was OK. It was OK? Only leaving the water on was bad? She was also very insistent on me doing my job: Read it! Say the words! when I tried to skip something.

The ending of the story - when the kangaroo assumes life of his own - can be interpreted as either Lily's imagination (she writes the 'sorry' card) or - just possibly - a touch of magic entering Lily's (and the kangaroo's) life. I definitely prefer the latter option and I have no doubts that my daughter also believed in Blue Kangaroo doing the deed and this magical element is the reason for 5 rather than 4 stars in my rating.

As far as the book's message goes, it is terribly moral without being 'moralising' - I have not been annoyed by it at all and I am generally pretty sensitive to 'be a good girl' type of patronising (you have probably noticed that it wasn't only my daughter that identified with Naughty Lily). Apart from the clear and obvious moral mentioned above there is also another one, maybe more parent-directed, which works especially when you accept the magical solution. The kangaroo doesn't blame Lily, he doesn't hold the fact that she treated him in a rotten way against her. In fact, the kangaroo loves Lily unconditionally - more unconditionally perhaps than the mother - and thus is an excellent example of a role of a cuddly toy: to be a transitional object and provide comfort and substitute love.

As with all real-life based books, its appeal will be probably age-limited; I was lucky to find it just when it matched my daughter's developmental phase. I would recommend it for ages between 2 and 6. I wouldn't perhaps buy it for a boy as a present as the main character is quite clearly a girl, but I am sure boys would enjoy having it read to them too. The setting of the story is white middle-class suburban (they live in a house, the bedroom is upstairs, there is a sandpit in a fairly big garden and the person that gets pelted with clothes chucked from the window by Lily is a certain 'Aunt Jemima'); but it doesn't play a big role in the story and the book should appeal across a broad spectrum of readers.

For another look at naughtiness and an exasperated parent, check out We Are Wearing Out The Naughty Step by Mick Inkpen. We've also enjoyed Mimi and Momo: No More Kissing! by Emma Chichester-Clark.

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Luci Davin said:

Interestingly my 2 year old son just loves this series at the moment, and doesn’t seem at all concerned about the character being a girl. Perhaps it would be more of an issue for a 3 or 4 year old.


Magda replied:

My 3 year old son loves it too - I didn't have a boy when I wrote the review. So much of kids' stuff is gendered that I try to take this into account, though, as some people might feel it's not appropriate eg as a present. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these to buy for own children at all, they are not girly in any way.