Bonkers and Brilliant. This is an inspired tale, reminiscent of the traditional ‘Enormous Turnip’ story but with much more humour and a modern day appeal.
Sunset Safari Park rarely has any visitors and is in danger of closing down. To tackle the problem Zebra calls a meeting of all the animals and challenges them to find a way to make the safari park more interesting. Penguin thinks there’s no hope but Zebra has a totally bonkers idea – they’ll grow a beetroot. They’ll grow the biggest beetroot in the world! It should be easy because they have plenty of manure (animal poo) to help it grow. At first it looks like Zebra’s plan is going to work. One beetroot grows so big that crowds of people come to see it. There is just one problem – the beetroot keeps growing. Soon there won’t be any room for visitors. Luckily, Zebra has another idea: an equally bonkers but totally brilliant idea.
Bonkers about Beetroot is a picture book that positively jumps off the bookshelf combining both an intriguing title that shouts ‘read me’ and a wonderful vibrant cover of huge beetroot, a cheery looking Zebra and – best of all – a frowning penguin. I was, therefore, slightly concerned that the story wouldn’t live up to the expectation that the title and cover creates.
Fortunately the book was even better than I expected. In fact, it’s probably the best picture book I’ve read in years. It’s an inspired tale, reminiscent of the traditional ‘Enormous Turnip’ story but with much more humour and a modern day appeal.
The story is told in a few well-chosen words that effectively convey the character and personality of the pessimistic penguin and the excessively enthusiastic Zebra. The story itself grips the reader and is structured to ensure you are constantly turning the pages to find out what is going to happen next. It’s rare not be to be able to guess the ending but I have to admit that I was totally surprised, and delighted, by the simple yet inspired turn of events. It’s bonkers yet totally brilliant.
Illustrator Chris Jevons’ pictures are vibrant and clear with a good pace and plenty of extra detail. The picture of the animals collaborating to build a giant manure heap really made me smile while the newspaper headlines added a nice detail. Most impressive of all, however, is the way Chris Jevons conveys an impressive range of emotions in the animals (especially given the simplicity of the pictures). This is most notable in the wonderful characterisation of the penguin who manages to frown, stare in surprise and look totally bewildered.
And if an inspired story, humour and amazing illustrations aren’t enough, this book also has a clear and accessible font for young readers, an educational slant about planting seeds and watering them that can be used in the classroom, and a nod to diversity through the illustrations of the safari park visitors. In short, this has everything component of a picture book classic.
If you enjoyed this and would like to read another slightly bonkers story with wonderful illustrations why not try Grrrrr! by Rob Biddulph or Pizza for Pirates by Adam Guillain, Charlotte Guillain and Lee Wildish.
Date: October 2017
Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Author: Cath Jones
Review first published on The Bookbag