Allen & Unwin, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
It is time for the very first practice of the meerkat choir and the choir-master is all set to begin. But each time he starts the countdown he is interrupted by another creature wanting to join in. But this choir is for meerkats only – no outsiders allowed = and so he sends them away, in an increasingly less-than-friendly manner as his frustration grows. Finally, the other creatures get his message that they are not welcome and practice begins. But the sound is not what he is wanting – it’s more enthusiastic than musical and he stomps off in disgust. Then the disappointed meerkats hear a beautiful noise and go to investigate…
As well as being a LOL story which nevertheless has serious undertones about acceptance and inclusion, the intrigue of this book is in its format and illustrations. The narrative is told in large speech bubbles with the choir-master’s increasing frustration being expressed in larger and larger fonts while the clever use of soft shapes, lines and colours gives a visual aspect to the melodious sounds which contrasts with that depicting the sounds of the meerkats when they finally do sing. While children will tell you that they can’t see sounds, this technique shows that sounds can evoke visual imagery just as they can evoke physical movement and offers a great opportunity to play them contrasting pieces that firstly encourage them to move in different ways and then express them using colours and lines. Extending the exercise further, they could discuss the mood that music can elicit and how it’s possible to accentuate mood through music by listening to the background tracks of movies or television, or even watching different parts of a ballet such as Swan Lake where the music, mood and movement of the Four Little Swans is so different from that of the final conflict between Siegfried and the sorcerer.
A book that can take you from a choir of meerkats who first appeared in The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo to the masterful work of Tchaikovsky and Pepita; one that has each of a range of reviewers focusing on different elements of its content and construction, is indeed special – no wonder it is a 2018 CBCA Notable in the Early Childhood category!
Teachers’ notes are available.