Not cute by Philip Bunting

cover image

Scholastic, 2020. ISBN: 9781760972387.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. The intriguing endpapers invite the reader to guess what the spotty lines are all about, and opening the book will be equally taken in by Quokka, maintaining that he is anything but cute. He stands on the left hand side of the first few double pages maintaining his rage at the ignominious label, trying to get other animals to see that he is not cute.
Dingo, Lizard, Eagle, Redback all cry out that word when they see him, impelling Quokka to don a disguise. Now the animals call out to warn Quokka, but he takes off the head gear to reveal just who the animal really is. But they are not afraid of him but the real crocodile behind him. He uses his new found uncuteness to ward the crocodile off, and he is pleases with himself, until . . .
Bunting's familiar block colour images of animals encourage readers to interact with the quokka as he dons various disguises to enhance his image and repel the cute tag. Readers will laugh out loud at Quokka's attempts to be scary or deadly or dangerous or majestic, anything except what he really is and marvel at the looks on the faces of the other animals as he tries the various disguises. Bunting's quirky sense of humour is infectious, entreating the readers to explore each page and the humour levelled at those who try to change their image.
A very funny look at a Quokka and his attempts to be seen as something different, the story has parallels to everyday life when trying to be something you are not. Many themes will be discussed, body image and perception being ones that will appeal to younger readers as they grapple with how they look and what others expect of them.
'The Stubborn listen to nobody's advice and become a victim of their own delusions' is a line from Aesop, quoted on the publication page, a fitting reminder that we should be happy with who and what we are.
Themes: Body image, Difference, Appearance, Perception.
Fran Knight