Review Blog

Feb 22 2017

Fancy pants by Kelly Hibbert

cover image

Ill. by Amanda Graham. Raising Literacy Australia, 2016. ISBN 9780994385352
'Once a year the Outback Dance is held near Bunyip's Bluff
Where animals in fancy pants arrive to strut their stuff...'
Dingo loves to dance under the desert's night sky but he doesn't have any fancy pants - just his regular coat and while he pretends not to care, deep down he really does.
Meanwhile all the other outback creatures are preparing for the big night, although not without some difficulty. Poor Emu is more suited to scarves - pants are not her thing while Bilby's britches are still on the line and Kangaroo falls over in his and tears a big hole in them! Wombat seems to have gained some weight since the last dance, Koala has too many choices and makes a big mess and poor Cockatoo is just bamboozled about how a bird can fit into pants! Only Frill-Neck Lizard seems comfortable, looking like something straight from 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'!
But eventually everyone gets themselves sorted, meeting together near Wombat's place - and then Dingo turns up in just his coat. At first the animals are concerned for their safety but then when he says that his coat is all he has, Kangaroo breaks the hush that has fallen...
This rollicking, rhyming yarn will not only entertain young readers with its humour and bright pictures, but will also allow them to hear the sounds and rhythms of our language and join in the delight that stories give.
Who hasn't had the dilemma of what to wear to a party and then found that their choice doesn't work - it's too small, it's in the wash, it has a scratchy tag, it's ripped, it's just not right somehow? And who has felt awkward and awful about not having a costume when everyone else is in fancy dress? Not only will young readers resonate with the situations in this story but it will also help think about Dingo and how he might be feeling and how they might respond if this was one of their friends. Would they poke fun, making him feel more miserable than he already is, or is there a better way? And what if they were Dingo with no fancy pants to wear? Would they decide to stay home or wrap themselves in a cloak of resilience and go anyway?
Team it with the 1988 classic Animals should definitely not wear clothing by Judi and Ron Barrett and have them design their own fancy dress for the story by giving them "paper doll" cutouts that they have to dress, encouraging them to think about size and structure and fit. Talk about why humans wear clothing, why our clothes are so different, national costumes, fashion, and a host of other related topics.
While illustrator Amanda Graham has many books under her belt, this is the first work of an experienced primary school teacher and to another teacher's eye it reflects so much of what we know attracts youngsters to the printed word including a strong underlying theme that opens up lots of discussions that will help children think beyond the words and pictures on the page. A book that will be read again and again and which enables a new pathway to be explored each time.
Barbara Braxton

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