Cause and consequences

28th November 2003 at 00:00
How can you show children the negative repercussions of their actions on others? Ted Dewan reviews five books that can certainly help

The Three Grumpies

Text by Tamra Wight

Illustrations by Ross Collins

Bloomsbury Children's Books, pound;9.99

You Do!

Text by Kes Gray

Illustrations by Nick Sharratt

Bodley Head, pound;10.99

I'll Show You, Blue Kangaroo!

By Emma Chichester Clark

Andersen Press, pound;9.99

Who Is Mrs Green?

By David McKee

Andersen Press, pound;9.99

Mr Peabody's Apples

Text by Madonna

Illustrations by Loren Long

Puffin, pound;12.99

The way one's habits, moods, behaviour, and opinions affect others, and in some cases take on a life of their own, isn't the easiest thing for children to grasp. In this case, a picture book is a terrific medium for showing how behavioural cause and effect unrolls, and these books do so with great imagination and flair.

Literally taking on a life of their own are the eponymous three Grumpies in Ross Collins and Tamra Wight's book. From the time she wakes up, a grumpy child is plagued by three oversize alien-like creatures: Grumpy, Grumpier, and Grumpiest. She suffers the Grumpies' torments for an entire day until it emerges that she can send them on their way with her own lightheartedness. The combination of the surreal and the everyday is a Ross Collins specialty. Here, his angular watercolour illustrations and ingenious layouts follow the girl's rotten treatment by the enormous bloated creatures, and children can vicariously enjoy the Grumpies'


In You Do!, the latest in a series of Daisy books, Daisy's mother always has an excuse for doing the very things she tells Daisy not to do. This results in Daisy repeating the phrase "you do". This is a great book for an adult and child to share, as the joke lies in the way it gently pokes fun at grown-ups' inconsistencies. Nick Sharratt's eye for fun graces this expertly paced book with its depictions of soup-slurping, nose-picking and other horrors committed by mum - and teachers.

I'll Show You, Blue Kangaroo, by Emma Chichester Clark, will resonate with any parents or teachers who have had to watch with clenched teeth as children overstretch themselves. Blue Kangaroo is doomed to bear witness to disobedient Lily's showing off, eventually falling victim to it when he is accidentally catapulted into a tree from a see-saw. Lily learns to behave in order for Blue Kangaroo to come back to her. In her watercolour illustrations, Chichester Clark is at her most confident and colourful, and is especially skilful at capturing Blue Kangaroo's helplessness and the magical blue of the night-time gloom. This gentle cautionary tale avoids being preachy simply by putting a beloved toy in the position of sympathetic victim of his owner's excesses.

Who Is Mrs Green?, from the creator of King Rollo and Elmer, depicts just how one person's inconsiderate behaviour can lead to a string of thoughtlessness. The ripples spread as each person passes on their irritation, until finally a girl called Jennifer is told off by her mother - all because of something Mrs Green did earlier that day, sending bad karma through a city peppered with odd urban details. The schematic folk art-style flatness of McKee's paintings demands a sophisticated visual reading - just the stuff for flexible young minds.

Madonna's second picture book, Mr Peabody's Apples, is a retelling of an 18th-century tale originally penned by The Baal Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name"). Tommy, a local boy, spreads a false rumour about his baseball coach, Mr Peabody, when he mistakes him for an apple thief. The book is an improvement on Madonna's debut, The English Roses, but despite the tale's integrity, the storytelling is not emotionally absorbing. Still, Mr Peabody's Apples offers a worthwhile lesson in the damage caused by loose and careless words, and the difficulty of repairing a damaged reputation, as impossible as picking up a pillow's feathers thrown to the wind. The nostalgic baseball theme offers a chance to use the talents of illustrator Loren Long, who has managed to create a lovely Rockwell-esque America of genuine sentimentality, and added a delightful visual epilogue.

Ted Dewan is an illustrator of children's books

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