Cover and internal design: Ingrid Kwong
Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia, 2021
Mike Lucas first started writing silly poems quite a while back to amuse his children. After a time this morphed into writing picture books, many of them full of fun but others also touching on major environmental themes (Vanishing, Midnight Sun, 2018) and love and friendship (Olivia’s Voice, Midnight Sun, 2017).
New Zealand based illustrator Daron Parton has been working as an illustrator since 1990 and is also an illustration tutor at Auckland University of Technology. Daron’s books include The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under Your Bed and A Crocodile in the Family.
Let’s Build a House reflects the predilections of both writer and illustrator. The story is told in rhyme with bold onomatopoeic imperatives on every double page – Up, Up, Up; Dig, Sig, Dig and so on. Children being read to will enjoy joining in on these chants.
The pictures portray Lego-like builders, with the main characters a builder Dad and his offsider daughter (to me she looks like a daughter, but Mike says she could be either a boy or a girl). They methodically lead us through the stages of actually building a house. Charmingly, a small cat appears on most pages too, peaking out from behind a bucket or stalking along the wooden framework like a feline works supervisor.
Along with the instructive notion of the diligence and care required to build a house – which could be extrapolated to other tasks – is the joy of completion, when Dad and daughter can sit together with their picnic (and the cat) displaying a job well done.
Just one of the pictorial features of this book is the portrayal of diversity of several kinds. The detailed but clear drawings make it ideal for teachers or other adults to read aloud to a group, and children will enjoy picking out their favourite parts of each page and drawing attention to things they have observed. ‘Find the cat’ is bound to be a popular task.
Messages of environmental care and teamwork are also deliberately spelt out, but all within the spirit of fun and the notion of satisfaction in the completion of a demanding task in which the book is framed.
The rhythm of words and the joy of reading are intrinsic to Mike Lucas’s work. He is an advocate of reading to children from a very young age. His latest book takes children safely into a grown-up workplace and will tap into the natural interest many children have in working with their parents on home tasks.
Thank you to Lothian Books, Hachette Australia for the review copy. Lovely to speak with Mike about his many-faceted life and work.