Boy (Phil Cummings, illus by Shane Devries, Scholastic)
Veteran children’s author Phil Cummings has produced over 60 books for young readers so he knows how to tell a simple story. The nameless titular character lives in a small village with his parents. Boy happens to be deaf and communicates ‘with dancing hands and pictures in the sand’, though the villagers, who are unable (or unwilling) to understand him, deem him a strange child. The village is constantly under attack by a dragon but the battle is fiercely fought and no one seems to be winning. Though boy is unable to hear all the commotion, he can still see and sense the distress from both sides of the warring parties. Cummings shows how his little hero can help by writing a single query in the sand, ‘Why are you fighting?’, thereby forcing both knights and beast to explain their misguided motivations. This book is best for pre-schoolers, who will enjoy the onomatopoeia (cling, clong, clang of the knights in armour) and the simple message about finding a common ground and clearing up misunderstanding. Adults will also find it a useful tool to discuss disability and fighting between siblings or friends. Shane Devries’ illustrations are full of activity and appropriate for younger eyes (the purple and blue-spotted dragon is more cute than scary).
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue