Two months ago I was at a picture book social event and, as these things go, various circles of people start to chat. Someone said hello and then introduced himself: Guy Parker-Rees. There were many wonderful people there who I admire greatly and had been talking to, but I was still a bit floored by this and stuttered in awe.
Despite my admiration and the joy we’ve had from his books, I have had these two books for over seven months and still not written about them. Seven months. I’m not sure where the time went. I think we were all too busy enjoying the books…
Tom and Millie are a series of so-far two books about two sibling kittens and their friends, who exist in a world reminiscent of Richard Scarry.
In Tom and Millie’s Great Big Treasure Hunt, the kittens set off with a list of Very Important Things to find. At the beach they’re looking for a red square; at the playground they’re looking for two blue circles; in the town centre they’re looking for three purple triangles; and so on… Each search spread is packed with interesting things to see, as well as trying to find the Very Important Things.
The search is wrapped around a story that actually makes sense, something that many search books don’t quite get right, as well as being packed with familiar scenes for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
The pay-off is a summer fair including all the objects that we’ve found through the book to search for again, plus stars to find to ‘win’ the cake. Yum yum!
Mighty-Girl and Danger-Girl both love searching for everything. Technically it’s probably on the young end for the six-year-old and she finds everything easily but she still enjoys looking through all the different things in the pictures, and can read the words for herself.
Tom & Millie’s Whizzy Busy People follows Tom and Millie as they visit various family members doing different jobs. The pages are packed full of things to spot, and you can try to find everyone described in the text. They visit a hospital, fire station, recycling centre, airport, and many other work situations ending up in a library to find lots more.
I like the focus on libraries being a fantastic place to visit. I find it a bit of a shame that mummy’s a nurse and daddy’s a fireman, even if Auntie Alice is a pilot and Auntie Bella a builder/architect. There are male and female characters doing a range of jobs, so it’s not a stereotyped book but I think the parents as most important people could have been depicted in a different way. It is very Richard Scarry – or maybe that is the point, and it’s a homage?
The only other negative I could rail against these books are the names of the characters, they are very white-middle-class names: Freddie, Millie, Toby, Olivia, Alfie, Ruby, Arthur, Florence… It would have been nice to have seen more variety.
However, the books are much fun and keep my children absorbed for ages. You can’t include everything in one book and the range of genders and different animals working together doing all sorts of things more than make up for my minor niggles.
As for Tom and Millie’s best job in the world? Well, you could say it’s not very health conscious, but it will definitely appeal. I’m just looking for the ten red stars so I can ‘win’ the chocolate – it’s actually quite challenging. Oh, and there’s the ladybird…
Disclosure: Tom & Millie’s Great Big Treasure Hunt and Tom & Millie’s Whizzy Busy People were sent by Hachette Children’s Books for review.