Tilly and Friends is a much loved CBeebies series teaching children about friendship and getting along with those around them. The series is based on Polly Dunbar’s Tilly books, the first of which is Doodle Bites.
Doodle wakes up feeling bitey. After biting her way through the house she spots something very good to bite – Tumpty’s bottom! Tumpty is so upset he stamps on Doodle’s tail and they both begin to cry. Soon the whole house is involved with Tilly as negotiator and Pru as doctor and giver of all-better-kisses. When Doodle and Tumpty apologize, everyone can be happy again. But Doodle is still feeling just a little bit bitey.
The characters in this book are immensely loveable, who wouldn’t want to be friends with a tiptoeing rabbit with long stand-uppy ears? Children will be able to relate to their roles and reasonings as they negotiate their way through an emotional and bitey morning. Perfect for preschoolers who are learning to get along with a new and strange mix of people at nursery. The text is simple enough for young children to understand and the illustrations add another level of meaning to the text, enabling them to get a lot out of the book independently.
For me, the beauty of this book is in the playfulness of the characters. Hector the pig is a boy. Who wears pink and is quiet and sensitive. Doodle the crocodile is a girl. Who is loud and boisterous and, well, bitey. The prescribed gender roles have been well and truly swapped around. Interestingly, at 3 and 4 years old, the children I have read this book with sometimes try and reverse the genders back. They are sure Hector is a girl and Doodle is a boy, isn’t she? How quickly the gender programming takes hold! All hail Polly Dunbar for challenging it and showing children that gender stereotypes can be messed with and swapped about happily.
A great book for teaching children that we all have to rub along together and that the best way to do that is with a smile, a play on our individual strengths and a bit of creativity. Stand out use of bandages and humour. We won’t worry about the (supposedly 5 year old) chicken wearing lipstick, as the children seem to laugh if off anyway, “chickens don’t even have lips!” I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Source: Our lovely local library.
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