An original and quirky picture book with an important message and enough depth to engage school age children who aren’t yet ready to move onto chapter books.
Alfonso the Alpaca loves a good story but he’s a little put out that there aren’t any books that feature alpacas like him – especially when books with bears are just about everywhere. Alfonso sets out to write his own story featuring alpacas but quickly discovers that he needs help. He tries enlisting his friend Colin, the bear. But Colin always seems too busy – he has his yoga class, his bath and bed, not to mention his trips to the cinema and scooter park. When Alfonso keeps interrupting, Colin eventually snaps and tells Alfonso that alpacas are noisy, clumsy, careless and REALLY annoying. Alfonso, however, takes Colin’s words as a challenge and sets out to prove that Alpacas really are great (something he does by a combination of magic tricks, skateboarding, playing the electric guitar and doing the four-legged splits in mid-air.) Alfonso is so successful that Colin finally agrees to help him and soon they have a book – a book about Alpacas AND Bears.
You may have noticed that this brief overview is a lot longer than most of the summaries in my picture book reviews. That’s because there is a lot more going on in this story than in many modern picture books. Indeed, the text is long by picture book standards. This is, however, a positive not a negative. In fact, it is refreshing to find a picture book with enough depth to engage school age children who aren’t yet ready to move onto chapter books.
The story also has lots of adult appeal (which is always important in a picture book that will often be read out loud) and a final page that made me laugh out loud. There is a strong ‘turn-page’ factor and, as an aspiring writer, I loved the way it explained the writing process – “writing, sharing, rewriting and correcting, drawing and colouring, final check” etc. The story also incorporates themes from friendship and perseverance to the crucial importance of everyone being represented in children’s books and how it only takes one voice to speak out and make a change.
The strong text is accompanied by bright and vibrant cartoon style pictures by Rikin Parekh. These have instant appeal but it’s definitely worth taking the time to go back and examine the details. On the opening pages, I loved reading the titles of all the books about bears (for example, 50 Shades of Bear, King Bear and The Bear Who Came to Tea) as well as admiring the bear shaped CD player. I also enjoyed following the antics of red squirrel who appears on most pages. (I especially liked how he is pictured with a stopwatch when Alfonso attempts to gobble five gigantic grass pies in less than five minutes.)
If you enjoyed this, I’d strongly recommend you read I don’t like books. Never. Ever. The End. by Emma Perry and Sharon Davey.