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Review: The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Marion Arbona

good little bookBoy meets book.

While banished to a dusty study one day “to think things over”, a boy pulls a book off a shelf and with great reluctance begins to read. As the afternoon passes, the story nabs him and carries him away. Before long, this good little book becomes his loyal companion, accompanying him everywhere … until, one day, the book is lost.

Will this bad little boy get back his good little book? Will the good little book survive on its own without a proper jacket? A quirky, enchanting tale of literary love and loss — and love found again — that will win the heart of even the most reluctant reader.

“Once there was a good little book…” starts Kyo Maclear in her latest modern fable about a young boy who, after being left to his own devices to “think things over … which is what he did for exactly twelve seconds”, discovers an average little book and falls in head over heels into it. Soon the book and the boy are inseparable – until that horrible day when they are separated. While this may be a book intended for children, every adult reader will connect with the memory of That First Book – the one they fell in love with and read, over and over again. This is a loving tribute to literacy.

There’s much to love about this book, from the reminders that not every book suits every reader to the understanding that every book we read becomes a part of who we are. I especially liked that how the book became the boy’s companion, but wasn’t the cause of his behaviour (naughty or otherwise). When the two are separated, Maclear’s boy is sad, but shows how much he has grown by eventually letting go of the book so that others might enjoy it. While he doesn’t forget his first favourite, he does move on and begins to enjoy other stories. Younger readers will enjoy the cast of characters who pick up the book (including a “squirrel who thought it might be a thriller”), and will be reassured that the book finds another home by the end.

Arbona’s illustrations fit the text beautifully, full of whimsy and absurdity as they chronicle the journey between boy and book. The illustrations verge on the surreal at times, but they fit the rhythm of the text perfectly. The attention to detail is fabulous, including individual scales on a dragon and waves of fur on a book-eating bear. Repeat viewings will provide opportunities for readers of all ages to discover something new on each page.

The Good Little Book is a delight, filled with affection for reading and readers alike. Gorgeous illustrations compliment a text that gently encourages young readers to keep looking for their own ‘good little book’, as it will only be the first of many they will come to love.

The Good Little Book was provided by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. Published August 11, it is available now from your favourite independent and chain bookseller. ISBN: 9781770494510, 40 pages

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