'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 18 April 2011

Review: Out of the Egg

I love the light-hearted and playful picture books that portray Easter egg hunts and other fun Easter traditions. But, I’ve also been searching high and low for a picture book that gently portrays the essence of Easter. I think Out of the Egg fits the bill.

Out of the Egg is a modern take on the folktale, The Little Red Hen. In this version of the folktale the hen has her own chick who teaches the characters in the book, and also the readers, a very special lesson.

This is a story of a Red Hen who finds a seed. She asks for help from the Fat Cat, the Dirty Rat and the Greedy Pig. When the Red Hen doesn’t receive help from her friends she goes ahead to plant the seed, water the seedling, dig weeds and shelter the tree; all by herself.

After years have passed, the tree becomes a safe place to lay her eggs and a shady place for young animals to play. However, the Red Hen doesn’t want to let the little cat, the little rat and the little pig under the tree to play because their parents didn’t help her to plant and grow the tree.

The Little Red Chick is appalled by her mother. This Little Chick knows how to forgive and invites the animals in to play. The story ends with the Red Hen sending each of the children home with a seed of their own.

Clear examples of cause and effect are evident in the story. The Red Hen teaches the reader how to solve some of the problems encountered when planting a tree: protecting seeds and seedlings from sun, wind, rain and weeds.

Tina Matthews has used the traditional Japanese woodblock technique to create the illustrations which are predominately black and white. The only colours present throughout the book are red for the hen and her chick, and green for the seed and the tree it becomes.

This is yet another book where I find hidden treasures in the illustrations. Tina Matthew’s illustrations subtly depict modern society: puffs of smoke, dumped rubbish, television, computers and mobile phones. The understated messages in the details of the illustrations make me giggle. Some of the details include the Greedy Pig eating an iconic fast-food burger and throwing away the packaging, the Dirty Rat attempting to spell Not I, but instead spelling Knot Eye, and the irony of the animals watching trees on the television when they are first asked by the Red Hen to help plant the seed.

Out of the Egg is a simple story of kindness and forgiveness, but if you’re looking to gently introduce your children to the religious message of Easter I think this is the book. There is no religious content or terminology in the book, but there are subtle parallels which can be made if you’re inclined to make them.

Those people that believe Jesus lived on this Earth would agree that, in summary, Jesus tried to teach mankind to love one another. He was always quick to forgive. When the Little Chick invites the little cat, rat and pig to play with her under the tree she disregards the lack of help anyone can her mother when she was planting the tree. The simple gesture of inviting the other animals to play demonstrates forgiveness and kindness.

Before being crucified Jesus told his believers to eat the bread and drink his blood in memory of him. Once Jesus died he was resurrected so people could spread his word. The hen in Out of the Egg gives a seed to the little cat, rat and pig as a symbol and a reminder to show kindness and forgiveness to others.

Title: Out of the Egg
Author/Illustrator: Tina Matthews
Publisher: Walker Books, $15.95 RRP
Publication Date: March 2011
ISBN: 9781921529559
Format: Paperback
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

This review by Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

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