Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2021
Humour is great way to impart serious messages to readers of all ages and especially to children. This book covers current issues including food allergies and how to respond to them, and the need for the utmost care in reading all labels on foods and chemical products used in the home.
The hapless Zed, the goldfish, is the accidental victim of his family’s inadvertence in feeding him bread, which makes him bloat and float. Timely advice from the vet fixes that. However, he goes on to suffer from errors made due to packaging that was so similar that it easily caused confusion between two products, one helpful and one harmful, not only for the goldfish but for other members of the household. Perhaps a message for government regulators here too.
The tale is told in rolling rhyme, in fact a single rhyme using the ‘ed’ syllable with a nice twist at the end. The author handles this well, never needing to force the rhyme with unsuitable or meaningless words. Children listening to competent adult readers will enjoy this aspect of the story.
The book’s visual artist has ably captured the various personalities of the family with his neat line drawings, which for me evoked the 1970s era Norm character of the Life Be In It advertising campaign. Norm was used by the Australian government to encourage participation in physical activity for good health. The drawings in that instance were done by Alex Stitt OA, who also created Sid the Seagull for the Slip Slop Slap campaign, the bird also appearing later in the SunSmart advertisements.
It can but be hoped that the success of the sun smart campaigns in reducing melanoma will be mirrored in Zed’s story for food, chemical and labelling awareness.
The author and illustrator have certainly done an excellent job in making the subject not just palatable for young readers and listeners but also an enjoyable reading experience. And that’s a win for childhood literacy and the continuing love of books.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy and to Amelia for such a delightful interview.