In Australia we’ve got a phrase for everything. And if you’re not an Aussie, it’s a fair bet you won’t have a clue what we’re on about. For instance, if we want to wish someone bad luck, we might say… “I hope your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny down”. I’m not making this up. Or if someone’s in good shape, we might say they’re “as fit as a Mallee Bull”, because Mallee is as hot as the sun and only the toughest survive. And on the subject of heat, when intense hot weather makes us crazy, we call it “going troppo”. In fact, I think EVERYONE in England went a bit troppo last week. All over the country, grown ups unceremoniously squatted in paddling pools – knees tucked under their chins. Instagram was awash with arty shots of people’s feet and midday cocktails. The butchers panicked as they ran out of chipolatas. Actual lobster men waddled about shirtless with tiny hankies on their heads, and those of us who suffer from hayfever were pretty much unbearable. Sorry. Ah the good ol’ British summer – all four days of it. But just like in Oz, eventually the heat has to break with a bit of rain. And boy was it a welcome relief. I could smell it before I could see it – that steamy earth smell floating in on the breeze. And as my red-faced, sweaty, hot headed, haven’t slept for a week, little cherubs finally stopped raging at me, we settled down for a splish splashingly refreshing read – Ellie’s Magic Wellies, a picture book from Amy Sparkes and Nick East.
“One miserable day it rained and it poured. Ellie Pengelly was fed up and bored. Until at the door came a rat-a-tat-tat! And there stood Aunt Flo with her marvellous hat!”
Ahh. We feel cooler already! Eccentric Aunt Flo swans in to babysit young Ellie while her mum’s at the dentist. After presenting Ellie with a rather flamboyant pair of wellies – yellow with red spots and wings – Ellie bounds outside to jump in some puddles. As Ellie splashes into the biggest puddle of all, out hops a Flibberty Gibberty. Imagine a purple lemur in a Sherlock Holmes costume –that’s our lovable FG. The Flibberty Gibberty is a bit of a mischief-maker and in Seuss’ ‘Cat in The Hat’ style, tears the house apart looking for fun. Mum’s on her way home, the house is trashed, Aunt Flo is oblivious, so Ellie does a Mary Poppins and quick sticks tidies the house.
If your little ones like rhyming stories, then they’ll delight in Amy’s bounding rhyme and word play – it’s “fabbity funderful”. My three-year-old Alice immediately demanded a second read. Mum of five Amy, donates 5% of royalties to baby charities including Tommy’s, ICP Support, Ickle Pickles and Bliss, so not only do you get a lovely book that you’ll read over and over, but you get to support an author who’s giving something back. As for Nick East’s illustrations, they’re great fun – bursting with colour and personality. It’s really satisfying when a publisher has matched a writer and an illustrator so perfectly.