Written by Lynne Bedford Hall and illustrated by Jane Heinrichs (Struik Lifestyle)
Mattie is a little girl living on a farm in Africa. Life is boring and lonely without siblings until she discovers that the animals can visit her at night and they go on wonderful adventures in her dreams. Each book in the series (there are 2 books so far) begins with the background to how she discovered she can have ‘magical animal dreamworld adventures.’
In Up, Up and Away, Mattie meets an elephant who asks for her help to fly, aided by some birthday balloons. This is where my 6-year-old reviewer balked. ‘How can a big fat elephant sit on a balloon?’ she asked. The picture of Ellie the elephant trying to climb onto a balloon had her further confused. ‘Why isn’t the balloon popping?’
The story continues: ‘It was heavy work, but Ellie finally managed to flop onto a big orange balloon.’ Ellie is lifted into the sky and has a grand time until two hadedas pop her balloons and she tumbles to the ground… luckily landing in a river. Suddenly she is in danger of drowning and Mattie has to call a nearby hippo to save her. My reviewer stopped me again: ‘Why can’t Ellie swim or climb out – look the water’s not deep,’ she asked. ‘Perhaps she hurt herself when she fell?’ I suggested. A suspension of facts is vital to a magical story like this and not all children will analyse it so closely, however my reviewer wasn’t convinced. This is a reminder that children can be a tough audience – anyone who thinks writing for children is easy, knows this. While they can accept many magical happenings sometimes the most simple facts trip up the story.
What does shine out in the book is the lovely full colour illustrations by Jane Heinrichs. Interestingly, the idea for the series arose from a series of prints she was selling on her etsy shop. Read about Jane’s interesting journey to illustration here. Lynne Bedford Hall is a very successful South African food and lifestyle author and this is her first children’s book.
The second book in the series is The Castle of Cupcakes. All books are available in English and Afrikaans.