Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia

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Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia

Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: What would you do if your child refused to go anywhere without their whale? Find out in this surreal and super fun book that is all about enabling an eccentric child and his peculiar pal.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
ISBN: 9781848861824

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It feels at times that children's books are the last place left that the surreal can thrive. Whilst adult fiction is dominated by the gritty and realistic, children still get the chance to read about flights of fancy. Why do I want to read about the latest Scandinavian murder when I can read about one boy and his whale? Surely a whale is too big, smelly and wet to take into school?

Arnold is the most stubborn of boys who refuses to do anything without the aid of his best pal. Not the biggest of issues for most kids, but when that best friend is a whale, life can get a little complicated. With the help of next door neighbour Dora, Arnold and his Whale can be included in all the fun from going to school, playing football or singing in the choir – how strange!

I am drawn to surreal children's books like a moth to a flame having always loved the likes of Dr Seuss. However, I am also very aware that I should not pack my own child's bookshelves completely with tales of the bizarre and that there is a place for a straight narrative, or a nice book about shapes or colours. Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia's Not Without My Whale is none of these things; it is an outright silly and fun story about something that just could not happen. A po-faced adult may not be able to get their mind around a whale in a school, but for any imaginative child, or impish adult, they will love this book.

What makes Whale so entertaining is that it is played extremely straight. Coughlan does not introduce the whale for a short time, instead readers have to wonder what Arnold refuses to go without – a bag, a book, a puppy? When the whale crops up it is a great surprise and this is no small animal. Although portrayed as a blue whale, Karabatzia's illustrations do not draw him to scale; whale is big, but not huge. The rest of the book follows a fun pattern of Arnold refusing to partake of an activity without his pal and Dora doing her best to enable him. Thus there are some great sections such as Dora setting up a five aside football game with one team having a whale in nets – try to score past that!

Coughlan's writing is wickedly funny, playing it straight down the middle as if a whale could go into school. He is helped greatly by the drawing of Karabatzia. There is a slight naivety to the drawing that chimes well with the earnest nature of the story. Watching Dora try to facilitate a whale in everyday activities is good fun. The writer and illustrator have used the pages well together, with clean text that sometimes wraps around the characters making it an active read.

Not Without My Whale is one of the simplest, but most fun ideas, I have read in a long time. By playing everything on the level, Coughlan just adds more to the silliness involved. Children will love the bright colours and daft story, but will also gain from the well written text and narrative that runs throughout. This book is a house favourite already.

Continue to have a whale of a time by reading some other books that star our watery mammal pals; Captain Wag and the Big Blue Whale by Michael Terry or Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway and Tom Jellett are good places to start.

Booklists.jpg Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia is in the Top Ten Picture Books 2015.
Buy Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan and Villie Karabatzia at Amazon.com.


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