Review Blog

Sep 18 2013

The big beet by Lynn Ward

cover image

Ill. by Adam Carruthers. Scholastic, 2013. ISBN 9781862919662.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Picture book. Working together. Verse story. When Thelma wants to have a burger for tea, she sends her husband Bert out to the vegie patch to get a beetroot. He picks the biggest one, with a huge array of green leaves on top of the ground, promising a beauty below. But he cannot pull it out. Each double page from then on shows people passing by, offering to help, but all with little success.
The refrain after each attempt reads,
'Still the beet wouldn't budge.
'Thel, we'll have to have canned.'
But someone else passes by, and the last line says,
'No, you'll get it out. I'll give you a hand,' finishing the rhyme.
Many attempts are made, one with a passing surfer, another with tattooed Shazza and Daz, followed by an elegant doctor. All attempts fail. Canned beetroot looks a real certainty until a voice says that she'll give a hand and they turn to see a young girl in a frilly pink dress. Bert is disparaging, thinking her too small, but her extra help gives enough oomph for the beetroot to come out of the ground.
The delightful illustrations show the attempts by the people above the ground, contrasting wildly with the array of animals beneath the ground, seemingly pulling the other way. Each page is dotted will little animals and jokes, and surprisingly, a spaceship which flies off once the beetroot has been pulled out. The last double page shows all the helpers tucking into a burger with beetroot. Carruthers' pen and ink illustrations combined with digital effects add spice to the story of the beetroot, and kids will love searching for the multitude of things included. It is great to see an acknowledgement of the folktale on which this story is based, which will send kids searching for it in the library and on the internet to compare it with the new version, adding another level of interest and learning to an already wonderful book.
Fran Knight

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