Yoo-hoo, Ladybird by Mem Fox
Ill. by Laura Ljungkvist. Penguin Viking, 2013. ISBN 9780670077304.
'Ladybird loves to hide. Yoo-hoo, Ladybird! Where are you?' And so begins another Mem Fox classic, which she describes as a Where's Wally for the very young. For Ladybird, one of those teeny-tiny red, with-black-spots creatures that just fascinate little people, has a wonderful time with her friends and is not easy to spot unless you have very keen eyes! But, it's OK if you don't find her because there's a close-up on the next page to help you.
What is there that's new to say about Mem Fox and her ability to write deceptively simple books that just appeal to generation after generation? Possum Magic had its 30th anniversary in 2013 and now Miss Nearly 3 won't sleep without hearing Where is the Green Sheep? first. And here is another winner!
In Mem's words, it is 'a typical Mem Fox book for the very young with simple language, predictably wrapped in rhyme and neatly tied with rhythm and repetition'. Even though it is only 133 words, it took two years to write because it took that long for 'every one of those 133 words fell into place, the syllables sang the right tune, the commas settled into their correct position, and the page-turns worked like the puzzle they were meant to be.' (You can read more of what Mem says on her website.)
The illustrations which are absolutely integral to a book of this nature are utterly charming and Ljungkvist has done a perfect job of making the puzzle tricky - but not too tricky - hiding Ladybird in plain sight in familiar places amongst toys and objects that will appeal, but which will also create a lot of discussion! Would you really find an octopus in your bath? As well as hiding Ladybird, she has cleverly included lots of other repetitive elements in the pictures so this can become a hide-and-seek on a grand scale!
If you were to construct a Who's Who in Children's literature, Australian or otherwise, particularly of those who are the leaders of perfect picture books for under-8s, Mem Fox would be at the pinnacle. In my opinion, she is a national treasure and needs to be in every child's life and library.