Saturday 30 January 2021

Early One Morning

Early One Morning by Mem Fox, illustrated by Christine Davenier (Puffin Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978176040030

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

It’s always good to see a new Mem Fox book for young readers as this Australian author has constantly produced picture books which become classics. This latest picture book is simple and uses few words with lots of repetitious phrases. There’s a small boy in blue overalls who’s ‘in search of a couple of things’, passing through a gate on a farm ‘but gates don’t lay them!’ It is instantly clear that he’s in search of some eggs for breakfast. Not spoken, but shown in every illustration, is a hen which is following the searching boy.

One can imagine as the boy comes to each thing on the farm and the text reads ‘but… (trucks, tractors, haystacks, cows, sheep, ponies) don’t lay them’, the child being read to will surely be screaming, ‘look behind you!’ Of course, the child’s engagement in the story will become louder and louder, more and more frantic as the walk continues. Finding how to engage her child reader is one of Fox’s strengths. And she does it to great effect in this story which is ideal for reading aloud. The book’s words are rhythmic and well-paced until the story reaches the final line (just for the child reader): ‘Well, YOU knew all along… of course!’

The final illustration in the book shows the little boy seated with his mum enjoying a boiled egg for his breakfast (and the hen on the windowsill outside, peering in at the domestic scene). The illustrations, using charcoal and muted colours, are free flowing and engaging, with vignettes which make the hen full of expressions (for example, amazed when she encounters the cow).

This is sure to be another winner for Fox. Ideal for children aged 3+ years.

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