Review Blog

Nov 12 2015

The Birthday Party Cake: All about Welcoming Differences with Pickle and Bree by Alison Reynolds

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Ill. by Mikki Butterley. The Five Mile Press, 2015. ISBN 9781760067236
(Age:5-8) This is one of the first books in the Pickle and Bree's Guide to Good Deeds series. Aimed at young school children who are developing their social skills and learning to regulate their emotions and behaviours, the series is upfront about its purpose. Each book features a Guide to Good Deeds at the back, which provides dot-point tips for children based on the focus theme of the book (eg. 'Listen to what other people say. Try to understand what they are saying, even if you don't agree with them').
This instalment is all about recognising and welcoming differences in ideas and likes and understanding that even friends can be very different from each other. Pickle, a brown bear, is planning a birthday party for his panda bear friend, Jason. Bree, his human best friend, decides to help. She wants to make it the best party ever, but her ideas of the best party ever are slightly different to Pickle's ideas. The honey cake he has just baked is overthrown by Bree because 'everybody knows that chocolate is the best for birthdays'. Bree declares their favourite bear game 'not a real birthday party game' and insists they play eye-spy instead. When she finally realises that Jason is not enjoying his birthday party, Bree reinstates the honey cake and the game of Bear Bump. This reflects young children's expectations that their friends will want to play the same game as they do and is relevant to the issues they have in their social relationships.
The soft, pastel illustrations give a timeless, gentle feel to the book and there are textural touches, which provide depth and make you want to reach out and touch the pages. The characters are cute, cuddly and well characterised through the illustrations, which will engage children. The text itself is quite long and may be a challenge for some younger children; however, it provides lots of material for discussion. This will be a useful series for teachers and parents to use as a conversation starter around specific social skills and challenges.
Nicole Nelson

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