Wednesday 6 July 2022

Group Hug! A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug! A Collective Noun Safari by Andy Fackrell (Ford Street Books) PB HC RRP $24.95 ISBN 9 781925804997 

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Come on safari around the world and discover the wonder of animal collective nouns. This book is a joyful ode to biodiversity, it has been lavishly illustrated and playfully written.

Andy Fackrell is one of the most awarded and recognised multi-dimensional creatives in the world. This is his first book and it’s a delightful read.

Wilbur is an animal loving city kid who goes on safari at the zoo to learn a collective noun or two.

This book lyricizes the majesty of animals in the wild with the quirks of the English language. The text shows that vocabulary can be used that can really extend a child’s world of words. ‘Zooks, my big Zambezian buddy, why, in the wild, are you so muddy? Fackrell uses alliteration and rhyme so that the text reads aloud well and is a fun experience. Our bulbous bellies, keep us afloat, we call ourselves a hippo float!

Wilbur is an Australian character, ‘G’day, my little Tasmanian mate, why in the wild, are you up so late?’ This appeals to a worldwide audience because children from anywhere can learn about Australian culture. Another strength of the text is the strong verbs and precise adjectives. ‘As meteors blaze across the night, our precious group, the rarest sight. Fackrell’s voice appeals to children, yet the text has a strong educational appeal.

On every spread the cartoon-like illustrations have engaging humour and movement. The facial expressions of the characters add meaning and life to the lively text. The page turns surprise with lavish illustrations that change with each animal visited. The colours used match the different animals and settings. I particularly love the double page spread of bright pink flamingo flamboyance with the light grey background: it really pops. The flamingos take centre stage and Wilbur is in the background dancing with pink flamingo feathers. The colourful palette of colours dance on every page.

Group Hug! is a picture book for primary school aged children. Its topic choices and humour have both kid and teacher appeal. Animal loving children will find this book fascinating. Teacher’s will enjoy the story’s environmental and animal themes, and the fact that the book can be used as an English tool. Group Hug! was inspired by Fackrell’s safari across the Serengeti and by a short film he created in South Africa about animal poaching.

This book supports The Lion’s Share, a fund backed by the United Nations Development Programme – its mentor David Attenborough, and its work protecting our most vulnerable wildlife groups.

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