Up the mountain by Marianne Dubuc
Book Island, 2018. ISBN 9781911496090
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Friendship. Generosity. Outdoors. Life skills. Mrs Badger lives at the bottom of a mountain and each Sunday she takes a walk up the path to the top. She knows all the creatures who live along the way, stopping to talk to them or help them on their way. One day a cat called Leo stops her and she convinces him to walk with her. He is easily tired and they need to stop and rest, but she shows him all the other animals and plants on their route, showing him which mushrooms are best to eat, and how to avoid dangers. Leo tires quickly because of his short legs, but Mrs Badger urges him on. Together they reach the top and the view of the world is magnificent, worth the effort made. Together they climb the mountain each Sunday, Mrs Badger teaching him the names of the plants and animals, watching over him as he learns the way. But one day Mrs Badger cannot climb the mountain as easily as she once could, and it is up to Leo to help her. The situation is reversed until there comes a time when Mrs Badger can no longer climb the mountain at all. Leo brings back some of his findings for her and eventually someone else climbs the mountain with him, Leo showing the way.
Translated from French, this is a gentle story of the passing on of knowledge, of leading younger people to being independent, as Mrs Badger leads Leo up the mountain of life, and when she can no longer help, he in turn helps another.
The trek through the path leading to the mountain displays a lot of the outdoors to children, a turtle on its back needing help, a group of baby hedgehogs crossing their path, keeping to the right path, making a stick to help with walking and so on. Lots of discussion points to pursue with a group of children, eager to be outdoors themselves.
The charming illustrations invite closer inspection of the animals that a child would find in the European outdoors, badger, hedgehog, fox, a bunting bird and so on. I love the repetition of the illustrations as Leo becomes the leader, changing roles with Mrs Badger. The drawing of Leo helping Mrs Badger at the top of the mountain is inspiring and children will easily understand the message being shown.