Tuesday 3 February 2015

Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories

Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories Catherine O’Neill (Walker Books)
PB RRP S9.95
ISBN 9780763677886
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is the second book from the SPARKS for new readers’ series I have read and I love them! The stories have only three characters, Simon, Annie (who appears to be around four or five years-old), and Hazel the dog. Simon is much older than Annie and although her brother, is like a father to her. There is never a mention of other family members and the stories revolve around the natural world, companionship, outdoor activities, learning, patience and love.

The loosely brushed watercolours add a poignant beauty to each page. There seems to be a strong fluid tie between the text and illustration making the two seem one thing.

Each book has four chapters and each one is a short story surrounding one specific idea which incorporates many issues.

In The Sneeze and Other Stories, Annie and Simon share a day sitting at the dock at Pickerel Lane where their home is, trying to find living things for Annie to draw with her crayons. She loves everything. A questioning and curious child, she is never still or quiet. Simon is always willing to accommodate her needs and patiently encourages her to express herself.

After looking at a book about a girl getting special attention when she’s sick, Simon sneezes and this awakes in Annie a need to look after him. The sofa becomes a bed, her special blanket a cover. Gummy bears, wet cloths, Hazel and Annie, join Simon on the sofa. There he reads her the story of the sick girl.

Annie loves their dog Hazel so much. But when Gray Cat comes purring along, Annie tries to teach Hazel to purr as well. It’s when Annie sees Gray Cat carrying a mouse in its mouth she decides that Hazel with her dog habits are the cutest thing.

The season is changing from summer to autumn. It is a joy for Annie because there are leaves on the ground. Horse chestnuts are falling from the trees and together Annie and Simon collect some in their wagon to take home. As Simon changes the string on his guitar, Annie watches a squirrel digging a hole and dropping in chestnuts. Simon explains that it is collecting food for the winter.

There is a strong element of nature and living things in the centre of every story. This series is ideal for the 5+ years’ age group or early readers. It’s a wonderful series to read or be read to.

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