An instantly appealing picture book that children will enjoy and adults will be happy to read over and over again.
Gertie lives with a herd of yaks on the top a mountain where it is all icy and snowy, with toe-curling blizzards that make it very blowy. She’s GREAT at being a yak. She has the curliest, whirliest wool. She can easily clip-clop up slippery cliffs because her little yak hooves are splendidly grippy. However, Gertie is not happy because there she thinks there is no “bigness” in her and she desperately wants to be like all the big yaks. She’s so determined to be like them she develops her own ‘growing up plan’. Her plan doesn’t work but that’s just as well because events on the mountains reveal that sometimes what the herd really needs is the littlest yak.
The theme of this story – being satisfied with yourself as you are – is a popular one for picture books with a structure that is largely standard (i.e. character is unhappy being different, tries to find a way of being the same, discovers that they are special as they are). The Littlest Yak conforms almost exactly to this structure but introduces some interesting and original twists. This includes the use of a less well-known animal, a mountain top setting, and the effective use of rhyme and meter. I also loved Gerties ‘growing-up plan’ from her determination to eat “every veg a little yak can” to reading lots of books: “Because grown-ups have big things to think and to know.”
The strong story from Lu Fraser is perfectly complimented by Kate Hindley’s delightful illustrations. Kate successfully turns a seemingly plain animal into something very special with the additional of typically Nordic costumes. Her colour palette of cool colours, mostly blue, help give a feeling of the coldness of the environment in which the Yaks live. And the night-time scenes are truly magical. There are also some fun details such as the antics of the birds and the tiny antlered creature (I’m honestly not sure what it is) who pops up on many of the pages.
Overall, this is an instantly appealing picture book that children will enjoy and adults will be happy to read over and over again.
If you enjoyed this and are looking for a story on a similar theme, you might like The Crow and the Peacock by Jo Fernihough. Alternatively, if you’re looking of a picture book about an unusual animal that’s more suitable for older picture book readers, you might want to try This Book Has Alpacas And Bears by Emma Perry and Rikin Parekh.
Date: September 2020
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Website: Kate Hindley