A Review of “A Tale of Two Beasts” by Fiona Roberton. Reviewed by Pippa Wilson.

£6.99 Hodder Children’s Books/Hachette

The Hachette website says:

“A funny story about seeing the world from a different viewpoint.

There are two sides to every story.

A little girl finds a strange beast in the woods and takes it home as a pet. She feeds it, shows it off to her friends and gives it a hat. But that night it escapes. Then the beast tells the story of being kidnapped by the girl, who forcefed it squirrel food, scared it with a group of beasts and wrapped it in wool. Can the two beasts resolve their differences?”

So what did I think?

When you find a picture book that’s both written and illustrated by the one and same talented individual, you know the book’s going to be in a league of its own. The interplay between the words and pictures work so well. And “A  Tale of Two Beasts” is a fine example.

Rather unusually for a picture book, the story is told from two different points of view. First, a little girl finds a “strange little beast…stuck up a tree and whining sadly.” She decides to rescue him, takes him home and treats him in a way that she thinks is fitting for a pet. Throughout her narrative we see the squirrel experiencing this “care” with a stunned, wide-eyed reaction.

When I read this to my two year old, the first thing I noticed was the quality of the paper: the thick, matt and super tactile pages! The palette of rich, autumnal colours gives the story a lovely, warm feel. And I love the variety of viewpoints in the pictures, and the balance of full pages and spot illustrations. The story bounces along, and is so easy to tell.

Halfway through we’re presented with the other side of the story: the terrible beasts‘s POV. He tells a very different story, and the differences made me laugh a lot.The story is retold with similar pictures, but with subtle differences to match the contrasting narrative.If you look closely, you can see all the emotion in his eyes. My favourite part to compare is where the girl puts the squirrel in a cardboard box. In her version she creates a beautiful playhouse; but in the squirrel’s version, he looks shell-shocked  and trapped.

There’s a nice happy ending despite their differences, and it’s the sort of book that makes you want to re-read it immediately to compare the two versions.

Both me and my nearly three year old enjoyed sharing this refreshingly original tale. And with my teacher hat on, I’d say that this is a great picture book to use in primary schools as an introduction to dual narratives.

Happy reading!

Fiona Roberton’s website.

Pippa  Wilson

6th March 2016

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