Review Blog

Sep 17 2019

I need a parrot by Chris McKimmie

cover image

Ford St, 2019. ISBN: 9781925804287.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Wants and needs, Humour. McKinnie's quirky play with words and illustrations will appeal widely as the boy in the story says simply, I NEED a parrot. Ideas will stream into the readers' minds as they too ask the question, what do I need? A parrot is probably the last thing many would admit to needing, so the question arises, why a parrot? With that question in mind, the ideas will come thick and fast as the illustrations show the boy rejecting a parrot hand puppet and a turkey, questioning a whale in his bath (blue of course) and a shark in his pool, telling the reader that he already has a bear (although not a real bear) and a cat. He promises that he will clean its cage, teach it words, feed it and love it.
Up to this point, the boy is adamant that a parrot is what he needs and the reader will go along with story but seeing the parrot in a cage will stop them in their tracks and make them take a breath. The story changes from a boy's wanting a parrot to the awfulness of a large bird kept in a cage, where once he had a sky full of blue in which to fly. And that point is underlined with a page filled with blue, a huge sky for the bird to fly freely. The boy now says 'Oh', realising the consequences of his demand. But over the page, McKinnie brings another bolt of humour, one all readers will recognise.
McKimmie's humour packs a wallop: lulled into the voice of the hero, going along with his well rehearsed reasons and promises to persuade his parents about the inclusion of a parrot in the household, the aim of the story changes to more of an environmental one, where the parrot's needs, not the boy's, are paramount.
It makes for a thrilling read, laughing along with the recognisable wheedlings of a child in wanting something, then pushed into the thought for something other than themselves, children will question the need of a parrot in their lives. The idea of a parrot, or any pet bird in particular, is brought into question with the series of cages shown throughout the story.
McKimmie's illustrative style is most distinctive, and readers will recognise the images he uses, a multiplicity of techniques including collage, paint, pencils and gouache, with ease, recalling other books they have read.
The images build a domestic background against which the boy pleads his case, his face looking directly at the reader, forming a bond. Laugh out loud illustrations will evoke comment as the theme changes in the book, pushing the readers to give more thought to their requests.
Fran Knight

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