Frank & Bert by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Frank is a fox and Bert is a bear. They’re best friends who love playing hide and seek, although Bert is terrible at hiding. It occurs to Frank that he can help his friend out by giving him longer to hide. But when the extra time makes no difference, Frank is faced with a dilemma: enjoy his win, leaving his friend miserable at losing yet again, or do something selfless that will result in happiness all round… I don’t think I need to tell you which way Frank’s heart leads him.
Frank & Bert has everything I want in a picture book: captivating illustrations that are as much a part of conveying the plot as the text; making a point about a topic pertinent to its audience - in this case, how to be a good friend - without hitting them on the head about it; a book that makes both the kids and the adult reading it burst out laughing and leave a smile on your face after reading it.
It’s so good I can even forgive the author for indulging in the questionable yet ubiquitous picture book trend for text rendered as a monologue, eschewing traditional story narration markers. I’m a middle-aged fogey and primary school teacher who firmly believes stories should be told like stories, in order to enhance children’s own vocabulary and oral language. But like Jon Klasson, Naylor-Ballesteros can pull it off.
A guaranteed hit with kids and adults alike.
Reviewer: Stacey Anyan
Allen & Unwin, $22.99