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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House

When I first saw the front cover of this book I knew that I had to read it for two reasons, Freya Blackwood and the boxes.

I just love the work of the illustrator Freya Blackwood. Her style of illustration is immediately recognisable. Freya creates breathtaking illustrations using pencil in a sketch like manner with washes of colour that make her drawings look effortless and accomplished. In this book the illustrations have been created onto a light brown background that wonderfully sets the tone for Clancy’s disconnected feelings.
Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House is the melding of two talented storytellers. Freya has previously worked with Libby Gleeson to create Amy and Louis (2006) and then in 2011 they created a third book Look, a Book.

In Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House, Clancy and his parents move into a large and spacious house, which his mother clearly adores. While discovering his new home Clancy recalls some of his favourite places in the little old cottage that he used to live in. After a long day he sadly gazes out his bedroom window upon the rising moon, sharing with it how he feels about the new house, ‘It’s too big.’

The author’s words along with the illustrator’s work shows empathy for how children can feel about change. Libby Gleeson masterfully weaves a childhood activity and fairy tale into this story of acceptance about moving house and a burgeoning friendship.

Libby Gleeson allows Clancy to venture outside into the yard to discover some packing boxes to play with, an activity that he could not resist. I don’t think that many children can resist an empty box as a toy. It reminds me of how my son loved boxes so much that we once had cardboard Doctor Who’s TARDIS in our family room for about three years.

Through play Clancy meets and begins a friendship with Millie, who is the same size he is. Together they explore their own imaginative play, using the boxes to create a tower and a train. Then they recreate the story of The Three Little Pigs taking turns to each build a house and play the role of the big bad wolf. Freya Blackwood’s inclusion of three pig shaped clouds in the sky is a wonderful touch.

The final house is built by both children. Afterward they proclaim the same feelings that Clancy’s parents felt about their new home.

‘It’s the best house,’ says Millie.

‘It’s a very fine dwelling,’ says Clancy.

- this review by Leanne Barrett

Title: Clancy & Millie and the very fine house
Author: Libby Gleeson
Illustrator: Freya Blackwood
Publisher: Little Hare, $24.95
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781921541193
For ages: 3-7 years
Type: Picture Book

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