Two delightful and simple stories for emerging readers in one book. Better still, they’re written from the point of view of a twelve-centimetre-tall guinea pig!
Harry Stevenson is a guinea pig. He has ginger fur, sparkly black eyes and a very squishy belly because he loves eating so much. Indeed, whenever he’s not sleeping (which is most of the time), Harry loves to eat. There’s nothing he loves more than a piece of broccoli, a carrot or a dish of nuggets – except maybe a fresh dandelion or a blade of grass. Even when he is sleeping, Harry is dreaming about eating. Harry is more than happy to stay in his cage or curled up on the lap of his best friend – seven-year-old Billy Smith. However, Harry’s urge to eat leads him on some very scary adventures.
There are two stories in this book and they are both delightful. Aimed at newly emerging readers, the language and the plot are kept simple but they still have enough to interest young readers. The first story focuses on how Harry accidently gets left behind when the Smith family move to a new flat, while the second story is about how Harry gets swept way at Billy’s birthday party (quite literally as he’s swept into the sky while holding onto a bunch of helium balloons with his teeth).
The stories are written from Harry’s perspective and it’s great fun, if a little surreal, to see the world from the point of view of a twelve-centimetre-tall guinea pig. Admittedly, I did briefly wonder how a guinea pig learned to read but I was soon so caught up in the story that I was happy not to worry about such matters. I loved the details about Harry’s life and particularly liked the way he follows the progress of his and Billy’s favourite football team, Sparky FC. Indeed, it really made me smile when Harry receives a new outdoor hutch and discovers that this means two newspapers to read each week (because Billy uses them as a sort of carpet for his hutch and cage).
When so many children’s books are set in relatively affluent families, I also really liked the fact that author, Ali Pye, has chosen to portray a poorer family, explaining how the Smiths used to live in a very small flat and have now moved to a slightly bigger one and describing how dad is thrilled to buy all sort of items second hand. While there is no mention in the text (or if there is I missed it), the illustrations also show us a family from an ethnic minority background rather than the traditional white stereotype.
While I enjoyed the stories, it is Ali Pye’s wonderful illustrations that really make this book stand out. Harry Stevenson is incredibly cute and his face is very expressive for such simple pictures. I particularly liked the pictures of him excitedly peeping out of his nest in story one, and staring nervously through the bars of his cage in book two. Best of all I loved the picture of Harry dressed in a Sparky FC bobble hat and scarf.
Date: June 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Website: Ali Pye