Monday 1 October 2018

Waiting for Chicken Smith

Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN9781760501761

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This story is set on a beach where a child stays in the same cabin every year with his family. Every year, the child’s friend Chicken Smith stays on the beach, too, with his dad and his dog, Jelly. But this year Chicken hasn’t arrived, and this is a worry because there’s lots of usual things to do with him – ride bikes, share milkshakes, walk to the lighthouse with sandwiches and hunt for whales through Chicken’s binoculars.

There’s so much that the narrator and Chicken have shared in the past. But now Chicken’s cabin looks different – the windows are shut; the grass is long, and Chicken’s bike is missing. The boy’s sister urges him to go to the cliff-top with her while he’s waiting, and there, for the first time, the boy sees a whale. Without his holiday friend, the boy and his sister, Mary Ann (named on the last page) get to spend time together, possibly for the first time while on holidays.

The illustrations in this book by Australian author and illustrator, David Mackintosh, are dramatic and wonderful, from pencil drawings to silhouetted shapes (such as a bicycle frame and a lighthouse on a cliff with a red wash and golden moon). Every page rewards the reader with astonishing pictures that immerse one and make one want to be creative, too.

This is a stunning book which evokes so much of the temporary and often intense friendships children make in their lives. It is not usual to have a story about the end of such a holiday friendship, but the author/illustrator celebrates it and shows the reader that sometimes, though friendships end, there are always happy memories. And new experiences to be had. This book is highly recommended for readers 5 to 8 years.

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