We're stuck by Sue deGennaro
Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781760663476.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Elevators, Friendship, City life. With a tongue in cheek swipe at the unfriendly attitude of people when getting into a lift in a city apartment, Sue deGennaro highlights the isolation that many city dwellers create. Separated from each other, rarely acknowledging another's existence, the animals living in this apartment only needed a small prod to communicate with each other.
A wonderful double page opens before the reader, making them turn the book on its side so they can see the apartment house in its entirety and the animals that live on each floor getting ready to leave for work. Readers will have fun looking closely at the animals to see what each wears and what work each does, so musing about where they are going. DeGennaro's illustrations are enticing with her pen and ink techniques, giving a humanity to the animals which all readers will recognise; the large tuba player, the very busy lion looking at his watch, the shy turtle sliding into the corner of the lift, the very round hippo chef, the tall giraffe with a ladder! and so on. Each is polite but stays guardedly aloof from the others in the lift.
But something happens to bring them all together. The lift breaks down and is stuck.
Turtle mentions that it is his birthday so without saying too many words, the animals look into their various bags to find things to help him celebrate his special day. Readers will be delighted and amused seeing what each animal can design out of something very simple - Crocodile inflates her rubber gloves, Hippo uses the newspaper to make paper hats, Pelican finds a cake in his bag, and they all sing out surprise to Turtle. Hippo helps Giraffe with her allergies, Whale tells everyone she is a hairdresser and cuts lion's mane, and they all settle down to chat and eat cake. When their rescuers arrive, no rescuing is needed, and the firemen are invited in for a cup of tea.
A delightful story well told will have children begging it to be read again. Layers of understanding about life in a city, isolation and lack of communication will not go unnoticed by the readers, as they see that it only needs a small trigger for people to break down the barriers. Readers will love to contemplate the next steps for the residents of apartment block 24, now that their lives have changed so completely.