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Review: This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye; Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne; This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye

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. Read the rest of this entry


Review: Millicent and Meer; Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne; Millicent and Meer

Published March 2011, Simon & Schuster. Paperback. List price £5.99

Appropriate for ages 2-6.

From the cover:

‘Millicent has ALWAYS wanted a cat so when, one day, a large wooden box labelled Mm…ee…er…ka…t lands THUMP! in her garden, Millicent couldn’t be happier.

“Yippee! You’re a cat and your name is Meer,” she cries. “You can be MY cat!”

Millicent takes Meer indoors but, before long, she discovers that there’s more to her new friend than meets the eye’.

Meerkats are all the rage at the moment. Richard Byrne has spied the bandwagon rollin’ on down the hill and jumped on it with both feet.

The full-page illustrations in Millicent and Meer are bright and clear. A mix of computer generated and hand sketched artwork on each matte page makes for richly textured images that are a pleasure to interact with. Text and image are given equal weight on the page, nudging the reader to read both together to glean a fuller understanding of the story.

The story itself is funny and poignant. Meer is accepted with love and friendship by other characters despite his difference. He doesn’t behave like a cat, though, and ultimately Dad says that Meer has to go and live at the zoo. Meer is as happy at the zoo doing meerkat things with his meerkat family as he was living with Millicent.

The messages of the text are confused. The necessity that he go live with others of his kind slightly undermines the acceptance that the characters show Meer: he is separate but equal, and family trumps friendship. Nevertheless Millicent and Meer is a lovely story, and for that reason it deserves 8 out of 10.

I look forward to Byrne’s next offering, This Book Belongs to Aye-Aye, due in the Summer, with joyful anticipation.