Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Grandma’s Prickly Secret (Trudie Trewin, illus by Nelli Suneli, Larrikin House)

When the child in this picture book barges in on their grandma in the bathroom attempting to pluck out two prominent chin hairs, they proceed to list all the ways those hairs could be used if only she let them grow. From tying glasses or keys to them for safekeeping to beading the hairs ornamentally or using them as dog leashes, each idea seems more ridiculous than the last. Nelli Suneli’s bold illustrations match the text perfectly, while kids aged three to five are sure to get a giggle out of the outrageous suggestions and will probably delight in coming up with more of their own. (They’ll also likely overlook the occasional forced rhyme in the text.) While it could be argued that the child in Grandma’s Prickly Secret is encouraging body positivity, the message of the book could also be read as someone trying to dictate what a woman does with her body—Grandma clearly wants to remove her chin hairs. But politics and subtext aside, Grandma’s Prickly Secret riffs on whimsical children’s literature that has long been popular, and will surely become a favourite at the library. One only needs to look at the rhyming, list-like nonsense of Dr Suess to see that stories like this will always find their audience.

Michael Earp is an author, children’s literature specialist and the manager of The Little Bookroom.


Category: Junior Reviews