Little Meerkat by Aleesah Darlison
Ill. by Shannon Melville. Wombat Books, 2014. ISBN 9781921632822.
'Little Meerkat did not like cuddles. 'Cuddles are for babies. I am not a baby. I am a heroic hunter'.' Little Meerkat did not like staying at home when the others went to search for food and nor did he like slinking through the grass when the others stood in their distinctive stance. In fact, Little Meerkat didn't like anything that baby meerkats did and even though his family members had very good reasons for him to hold paws, paddle at the edge of the lake and get dry afterwards he did it very grudgingly. Until a snake decides he will make a ssplendidly delicousss ssnake ssnack . . .
Using an internationally recognised animal as the main character to ensure children from all backgrounds, cultures and countries can connect with and learn from Little Meerkat's story, Aleesah Darlison has created this delightful tale for young children who want to be older than they are - 'threenagers' is the word that has been used for Miss 1 and Miss 2 lately. Inspired by their older siblings they believe they can do anything, oblivious to danger or consequences until they are stuck at the top of the monkey bars, or, in this case, a snake comes along. It really is a story that spans borders and boundaries.
There is something about meerkats that automatically endear them to us and Shannon Melville has captured this in her illustrations perfectly. Little Meerkat as the tribal warrior, as the stealthy scout, as the swimming champion add humour but more importantly they enable the reader to empathise with Little Meerkat and perhaps see themselves in him. Will it stop Miss 2 from wanting to be Miss 7, or Miss 1 wanting to be Miss 9? Probably not - but it offers a great reason to dissuade them from being too risky. 'Remember what happened to Little Meerkat?' may become a regular refrain in this house!