Review Blog

Jun 29 2017

Henrietta and the perfect night by Martine Murray

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760290245
(Age: 6+) Recommended. Family, Siblings, Birth. The effervescent Henrietta notices the her mother is getting fatter. Her parents explain that Henrietta is going to have a baby brother or sister, but not now, later in the year when the apples ripen on the trees. Her father tells her about the seeds growing in the ground and how they develop and grow. When the apples are picked and they make apple crumble, the baby will arrive. She is elated but a little nervous about being an older sister and goes to a neighbour's house to practise on their baby. Here she finds some of the things which amuse a young child, but when it does not do what Henrietta wants, it begins to cry, the mother telling Henrietta that it is tired.
The book is divided into five easily read chapters detailing aspects of Henrietta's life. Going to school for the first time, she is unsure until she sees someone else less sure than she. She comforts the girl, finding that by staying with her she becomes more at ease at being in school, and the two together have a good first day. The story takes Henrietta and her new friend, Olivia through their first months at school, having a sleepover and being in the school play. All the while the delightful illustrations show the change of seasons and the change in mum's appearance. One day they motor to a friend's house and look at some puppies. Henrietta would dearly love one but other things happen to change the day for the family. Mum must be taken back home, and the midwife called. Dad and Henrietta watch a movie, and Dad goes off to help Mum. When the baby arrives, Henrietta is introduced to Albert and everyone is smiling.
This wonderful story of one family and its journey to having a second child will have instant appeal. Not only does it reflect a close, loving family, but it shows the stages a family goes through in life. Physically Mum changes shape, but Henrietta's awareness develops too. She becomes more aware of what she will be expected to do as an older sibling: practising on her neighbour's child, and in going to school, learns to be compassionate to those around her.
In a small hardback format with engaging print, the book fits well in the hand and will be rarely on the shelves. As an explorer of life, Henrietta's warm, funny commentary is most entertaining. Martine Murray is able to reflect a child's view of what is happening around her with humour and panache.
Fran Knight

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