C. K. Smouha, illus. Isabella Bunnell, London: Cicada, hb, 978 1 9087 1462 6, 2019, £11.95, 32pp.
Picture book, fiction, 4-8 years
Wilfred and Neville do not fit in. How can they? One is a Walrus (rather large and smelly), the other a narwhal (with a dangerous pointed horn). They have no friends at Miss Blubber’s School nor are they keen on each other. The arrival of the lovely – and independent – Betty Beluga changes everything but not quite in the way expected.
This charming tale neatly tackles a number of situations that young readers will recognise and relate to; it also provides a very practical and satisfactory conclusion that shows how friends do not need to be the same to be valued and inclusive. Neville and Wilfred are encouraged to make the most of themselves, but Betty by maintaining her independence also provides the opportunity for a friendship that embraces the three very different characters. Bunell’s illustrations with their attractive retro look achieved through a simple palette limited to soft blues, yellows and madder combined with strong black outlines provide just the right amount of humour. Without mirroring the narrative, they capture the details not in the text and bring the characters to life, expanding and enriching the directness of the narrative. A thoroughly enjoyable picture book with a distinctive visual language that is very welcome.
Review by FMH