Meeka by Suzanne Barton and Anil Tortop

cover image

Bluebell Books, 2017. ISBN 9780648099307
There are lots of tantalising tastes and smells at the community food markets - crusty French bread, buttery corn on the cob, fluffy, puffy fairy floss, peanuts, walnuts, all kinds of nutty nuts... but the most tantalising of all is dad's spicy, dicey stew. Made with spices, herbs, almonds, apricots, lemons and some other secret ingredients, it not only draws in the market-goers but also a cute little bird called Meeka who samples it every day and sings with delight.
But Meeka also likes to sample all the goodies from the other stalls and is friendly with all the other cooks and sellers so when Meeka goes missing, there is great consternation. Finally found with a bulging tummy and feeling very sick from eating all the non-bird food, Meeka is placed in one of the tagines used for the spicy, dicey stew to recover and then disaster happens . . .
New author Suzanne Barton crowd-funded this charming story that gently suggests that we really should not feed our pets and wildlife human food because it is not the best for them and that Mother Nature really has a better diet for them. Anil Tortop's gentle pastel illustrations bring the busyness of the markets to life in a series of vignettes that tell as much of the story as the text. Certainly there are two crucial pictures that are not referred to in the words on which the story hangs, and which demonstrate the links between words and pictures in quality picture books. Young children will enjoy this story - you can hear them gasp when they see what the little girl does with Meeka and encourage their predictions of Meeka's fate and they will like the rhythm and rhyme of the food words. They can share their favourite foods and maybe taste each other's and then investigate why it is not a good idea to indulge our pets and wildlife as they discover just what they should be eating.
Debut story, debut author but hopefully not the first-and-only.
Barbara Braxton