When I was five years and five weeks old, I trotted off to year one – or rather flip, flap, flopped as it was raining, and when it rained, Mum always made us wear thongs to school so our sneakers wouldn’t get wet. Yes thongs. Now, now, don’t get excited. I’m Australian, so I’m allowed to use that word in the context of footwear. I was one of four barefoot brats, forever sunburnt and happily whiling away our childhood, fence jumping through the backyards of suburbia. For a time, in the eighties, there were four of us under the age of six. And boy oh boy did Mum have her work cut out for her… packing lunches, braiding hair, ironing uniforms, schlepping to and fro on the school run, inventing new concoctions for beef mince (with pineapple, peas and spaghetti anyone?) and stepping in when our scrapping got out of hand.
So when Gecko’s Echo by Lucy Rowland and Natasha Rimmington landed on my desk, with an amiable looking gecko grinning up at me, I felt home sick for Australia, (after all a gecko stuck to the ceiling is a fixture in any self-respecting Aussie home). But more pertinently… I got nostalgic about my Mum. Which brings me back to my story. At five, I was the youngest in the class and, according to Mum, had very few teeth (I was a late fanger) and even less hair. The little I had, was red, curly and responsible for endless teasing throughout my school years. Being mostly toothless and sprouting a tuft of ginger hair was never going to ingratiate me with the cool kids, or in my case, any kids at all. Nobody wanted to play with me. I was barely five, at a really big school, and I was all on my own. So when my pregnant Mum discovered I was being left out, she started turning up at lunchtime to eat her lunch with me, so I wouldn’t feel lonely anymore. She was always there for me.
Gecko’s Echo beautifully captures this spirit of being a Mum and doing whatever it takes to look out for your kids; even if that means heading back to school, while heavily pregnant, to eat a packed lunch, on a tiny stool, every single day. It’s about finding stores of determination, resourcefulness and courage that you never even knew you had. Mummy Gecko is fearlessly standing guard over her eggs, heading off snake, eagle and rat who are intent on gobbling them up. But we all know that you should NEVER, ever, mess with a Mum, and according to Mummy Gecko, if these opportunists take one more step, they’ll have to deal with the wrath of ONE HUNDRED ANGRY GECKOS. (I’m almost certainly going to use that line next time someone crosses me!)
A lover of poetry, and a speech and language therapist, Lucy has an easy rhyming style that’s perfect for younger readers. Gecko’s Echo is her first book, with a clutch of other titles on the way. And Natasha has a great talent for drawing vibrant animal characters whose personalities scarper off the page. Gecko is strong and sassy and shows us that being brave counts for everything. And isn’t that what motherhood’s all about.