Saturday 19 September 2015

Lola’s Toy Box: The Patchwork Picnic

Lola’s Toy Box: The Patchwork Picnic by Danny Parker, illustrated by Guy Shields (Hardie Grant Egmont)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781760124366

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Patchwork Picnic is the first junior fiction title in the Lola’s Toy Box series, by the author of picture books Tree and Parachute, Danny Parker. The chapters are interspersed with charming illustrations by Guy Shields, who recently worked on the redesign of literary magazine Kill Your Darlings.

When Lola’s mum is clearing out the family’s junk-crammed garden shed, Lola and her brother Nick are asked if they would like to keep any of the unwanted objects. Nick ‘pushed past her’ and immediately began to make his demands known, setting the scene for a realistically turbulent sibling relationship.

Lola sees magic in the jumble of old furniture in the shed’s shadows, and sets her sights on a large wooden box. In order to escape domineering Nick, Lola and her toy Buddy hop inside it. They emerge out of the box to find themselves on a hillside where Buddy begins to talk, and a magical journey in a kingdom of toys begins.

When Lola learns of the battle between the Plastic Prince and the Great High Bear in a place called Nevercalm, readers may recognise parallels with Lola’s own struggles with Nick. Lola draws on an inner-strength to challenge a threatening bear, and agrees to partake in a button test to prove to the toys she is trustworthy. Her adventure demonstrates her problem-solving skills, something readers may take heart from and be inspired to apply in their own lives.

Themes of resilience, courage, loyalty and kindness emerge in this magical tale that deals with issues many children may relate to. Lola is a strong female character who shows it is possible to be kind and stand up for yourself at the same time. And with a magic toy box now in her possession, there are more adventures in store for Lola and Buddy – in fact, three more titles in the series are already available.

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