Boa's Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis
Published by Koala Books
When we think of birthdays, many of us think of presents - well I still do and I'm 31 - I even make a count-down chart! To be fair, I may get overly excited about birthdays, hence you can imagine my glee when Boa's Bad Birthday landed in my lap to review!
Boa, as you may have guessed, is a delightfully spotted boa constrictor. Boa has invited all his friends around to help celebrate his birthday - but more importantly, to give him presents. Orang-utan is first to arrive and promptly hands over a piano -a grand idea no doubt, but not for a boa who has no fingers! From this moment on, you know things aren't going to go as planned for Boa's birthday.
Jeanne cleverly keeps young minds guessing throughout and forces them to turn the page to reveal each birthday treat. By doing so, she plays directly into the birthday tradition, whereby many of us curious types try and guess what the gift is just by looking at the wrapping (at times it helps to give it a shake)! In this instance, Tony is a big help, providing some marvellous hand-drawn clues! His illustrations capture each character's personality in just one page - coloured with humour and a touch of 'Quentin Blake' ridiculous - they are the perfect match for this tale and help deliver many meaningful messages in a light-hearted manner, making them easily understood by young readers.
When buying gifts for others, many of us think of ourselves - what we would like as opposed to the individual we're buying gifts for. This reality makes it easy to relate to the mindset of Boa's crew. Anteater clearly loves football; hence he thought that would be the most wonderful gift, whereas Sloth can't go a day without his hairbrush. Both these gifts are most unsuitable for a boa with no hair and no feet, but as Boa's mum reminds him - it's the thought that counts...Boa is quick to remind her however, that they could have thought a little harder!
I commend Jeanne's bravery in tackling such a tale and for doing it in such an honest way. Adults have a hard enough time flashing a polite smile for a gift we truly don't like, but expecting little ones to do the same is a big ask. What a good thing Leanne and Tony teamed up!
There is no doubt that there are many strong messages woven into this tale - good things come to those who wait and the age old classic that things aren't always what they seem - after all, a pile of poo was Boa's best gift (you'll have to read this tale to discover why!). That said, they are all subtly delivered and disguised with humour, which in turn creates a story enjoyable for everyone to read.
So whether you buy it for yourself, your little one or to give as a gift, there will be no fake smiles when received, as this tale truly is as good as it looks!
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Jeanne Willis
Illustration: Tony Ross
Title: Boa’s Bad Birthday
Publisher: Koala Books
Published: June 2014