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Heads and Tails (John Canty, Berbay Publishing)

Heads and Tails is an educational book for small children either at home or at school, incorporating a game into the narrative to make the animal information fun rather than dry. Each recto page offers facts and a simple watercolour of an animal’s tail, and on the following verso page the animal’s front half is revealed, with ink line details overlaying the simple colour, filling in the animal’s identity. Bold black and coloured text presents the animal clues and facts. The old-school typewriter-style font is readable, and complemented by Oliver-Jeffers-esque hand-lettering for each animal’s ‘reveal’. The pattern of three clues per page is satisfying, while rhythmic variety keeps the text lively. There’s a mix of simple clues (‘I purr’) with a few more challenging ones which will likely introduce new vocabulary and knowledge for younger children (‘I have powerful jaws …’). The book also has a few humorous twists: the appearance of the enormous elephant is delayed by a tiny mouse, and the conclusion—incorporating the reader into the catalogue of animals—will resonate with kids.

Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is an editor, writer and bookseller at the Hobart Bookshop


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