Roly Poly by Mem Fox

cover image

Illus. by Jane Dyer. Puffin Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781760896348.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Polar bears, Sibling rivalry, Families. Learning to get along with a new member of the family, especially one who wants what you have, can be a painful transition for some, and Mem Fox brings this issue to life with her delightful character Roly Poly, imaginatively sculpted by Jane Dyer and photographed by Jeanne Birdsall.
Roly Poly is used to having his own space. His bed is his bed and his alone, the fish he catches are his fish and his alone, his walrus tooth that he plays with is his and his alone. Repetition entwines the listeners into the story, and they will say the words out loud, waiting for the verbal clues to show them the way. The beautifully timed lines create an image of a bear not used to sharing his life so when a baby brother appears in his bed one day, he is indignant. He pretends not to hear when his parents tell him about Monty, and he storms off when this brother tries to play with him. But Monty follows him, and when the ice flow begins to crack, Roly Poly pretends not to hear the cries for help, and turns his back once again.
The images created by Dyer are magical: pulled wool results in a fluffy felt like appearance, giving the impression of the polar bears' fur, and the addition of little things like the bedroom furniture and the scarves add reality to each scene.
It is amazing how lifelike the expressions on the bears' faces become as the story unfolds, making it clear to all readers that this book is not just about bears.
Readers will love listening to the story read aloud, anticipating the repeated words, repeating some of the lines as it is read. Equally reading it for themselves will be a treat, searching each page for details, marvelling at how lifelike the bears are, recalling for themselves times when they have been less than sympathetic with their siblings.
As a read aloud, a discussion starter about siblings and their disagreements, or just a good read about two brothers, this latest offering by Australia's most loved author, Mem Fox, will never be left long on the shelf in any library. You may need several copies.
Fran Knight