Review Blog

Aug 01 2013

Parachute by Danny Parker

cover image

Ill. by Matt Ottley. Little Hare, 2013. ISBN 978 1 921894 20 6.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Safety. Feeling safe. Toby never goes anywhere without his parachute. Waking up and getting out of bed, eating breakfast, cleaning his teeth - all are done with his parachute on his back, making him feel safe. And he is. Going to the zoo, he needs his parachute to help him when he sees something that scares him, sliding on the slippery dip, seesaw and the swings, his parachute is there to keep him safe.
One day looking at his tree house, perched at the end of a long rope ladder in the backyard, he notices that Henry is stuck up the tree, even higher than the tree house. He climbs to the tree house to rescue Henry, his cat, telling him not to be scared. He brings the cat down to the tree house where to help the cat get to the ground, he unwraps his parachute and gently lowers the cat to safety. Toby then climbs down himself without his parachute, taking small steps one at a time, until he too is safe on the ground.
A lovely tale of overcoming fear, of building strengths to do things by yourself, of exploring and of helping others, this book brims with good feelings.
The illustrations are simply magical, showing a little boy almost overwhelmed by his parachute, taking his mother's hand, or hiding behind her, but suddenly seeing that his friend is in trouble and so forgetting his own fears, dives in to help Henry without any scruples of his own.
The perspective Ottley gives to the child's view of his world reminds the reader of his smallness compared with objects such as the tree house, a ladder, a chair, the tree and an elephant. Each however grows smaller as Toby overcomes his fears. The wash of virtual oil paint, pastel and pencil glows with life as we see Toby little by little leave his parachute behind.
The whole book has the feel of a fable, as Toby learns to overcome his fears, brilliantly executed in both text and illustration, I am sure it will find a place in all classrooms, libraries and homes as teachers, parents and children reach for it to read aloud, discuss and contemplate.
Fran Knight

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