Ten Tiny Things by Meg McKinlay and Kyle Hughes-Odgers

Meg McKinlay & Kyle Hughes-Odgers (ill.)

Fremantle Press (2012)

ISBN: 9781921888946

Reviewed by Trisha Buckley

Meg McKinlay’s latest collaboration with new illustrator, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, is effective. The geometric patterns of the end papers, and the heavy pages reflect the story’s message: We need to take time out to observe the world around us.

McKinlay’s narratives are always enriched by her language. This simple story is layered by her use of alliteration, repetition of rhythms and sentence structures, and poetic devices like ‘it was cosy and comfortable and calm’, and ‘but the world whizzed past their windows like a big foggy blur’. Reading this to and with children offers a new and surprising vocabulary, and the experience of sentences which roll off the tongue in unexpected ways.

In our modern, convenient world, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded to slow down and share the small pleasures of nature and time. There is no sentimentality here, no obvious hearkening back to a simpler (better?) time, but we are encouraged to find more ways to allow children to experience the real, tangible world.

If I had one niggle, it would be the illustrations tend to only reflect the story. Although there is artistic interpretation with obscure background shadows, the images could have challenged readers more. I love the colour palette and the unusual shapes and designs, but an opportunity to take the ‘ten tiny things’ theme a little further has been missed.

I’m extremely fond of all McKinlay’s texts – both chapter and picture books. Her humour  is gentle, her style a little whimsical, and her themes universal. But best of all she doesn’t talk down to young people; she treats them with respect. She believes her audience are smart enough to fill in gaps and see beyond the page. Ten Tiny Things is another fine example and comes highly recommended for young children.

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