Published June 2011, Oxford University Press. Hardback. List price £10.99
Appropriate for ages 2-10.
From the cover:
‘Meet Aye-Aye. He’s kind of unusual. And Unusually kind. And this is his story’.
It’s impossible to think of the aye-aye without thinking of Stephen Fry, and this is why:
They’re funny looking creatures (one commenter on the above video declares that they look like ‘half fiendish koalas on crack’, and it’s hard to disagree), with ET-like middle fingers, elongated and spindly, which they use for scooping grubs from under the bark of trees. To be fair, they do look like they might eat your soul, but they’ll still charm your socks off.
Like Richard Byrne’s previous offering (Millicent and Meer, reviewed by TreasuryIslands back in March), This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye explores what it’s like to be different. Unlike Millicent and Meer, in which the story was driven by difference, …Aye-Aye lets this issue take a back seat. It still works, though. We find out that Aye-Aye is different from his super-cute classmates on page one, then zip off into a kindergarten whodunnit until the final pages.
The action takes place at Miss Deer’s Academy for Aspiring Picture-Book Animals, an institution I desperately want to exist, where cuteness rules and Aye-Aye, who would simply love to be in a picture book, is considered school chums the Rabbit Twins to be ‘too funny-looking’. The Rabbit Twins, take their self-imposed superiority as an excuse for bad behaviour (it is a lesson in how privilege spoils us and one that many people could do with learning).
Miss Deer announces a competition: the most helpful animal will win a very special prize. Inevitably, it is Aye-Aye who wins the very special prize through his helpfulness, resourcefulness and kindness. As Aye-Aye’s positive actions have consequences, so do the Rabbit Twins negative actions.
The illustrations are bright and engaging. There’s plenty going on, so there is a lot to talk about, and the colours pop. Illustrations generally fill the page and text is mainly clear.
I have but one niggle with This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye and it is Aye-Aye himself. He is insanely cute. This is a minor detail, but given that the point of the book is that Aye-Aye is not as cute and cuddly as the other animals, it irritates.
It is for this reason alone that This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye loses a point. 9 out of 10.
With thanks to Oxford University Press for the review copy.