Tom and Millie’s Whizzy Busy People by Guy Parker-Rees

23 May

As a huge fan of Giraffe’s Can’t Dance (and the rock ‘n’ rolling rhinos) I was very excited to find Whizzy Busy People waiting for me on my doormat. And it didn’t disappoint. There’s a lot to love about this book. It combines two of the things little people adore – spotting things, and Exciting Grown-up Jobs.

Tom and Millie are talking about what they want to be when they grow up and decide to seek inspiration from their family and their jobs. They travel around the town visiting relatives in their jobs at the hospital, the recycling centre, building site and airport amongst other places.

Each page is crammed full of busyness and has loads to look at, with a ladybird to spot on each page as well as endless friends and relations. The joy here is the way the things to spot are integrated into the story. Lines like “I can see Ruby picking a pineapple…And – oops! – Jemma just dropped a jar of jam” have you scouring the page for pineapple pluckers and jam jumbles.

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Of course, a RhinoReads review wouldn’t be worth it’s weight in cake without a nod to equality, and Whizzy Busy People gets my Ronnie snort of approval. Guy Parker-Rees hasn’t followed gender stereotypes or gone for a strict, ticking-the-equality-box, stereotype reversal. Instead he has done something to be applauded.
He has made it look like real life.
Such a simple thing, yet such an important thing too. When children read books they gain a glimpse of the wider world. They learn from what they see in the illustrations and what they hear read to them. In a book like this, that is specifically showing children what the grown up world of work looks like, it is even more important to be true to life and provide an honest representation of the world for children to learn from. Obviously a page of bored animals in grey suits tapping on a computer and clinging on to their coffee would be a touch too honest, but a wide range of jobs and a realistic mix of people working them is a positive and realistic view of what really happens in the world.

Guy Parker-Rees gives us a female nurse and a male firefighter, then a female pilot and a female construction worker. By using animal characters and dressing them all in uniforms such as scrubs and fire suits the genders are obscured. The workers could be any gender and children have the opportunity to put themselves in any role they choose. From the very first page where we meet Tom and Millie, it is made clear that this is a book for all children to explore all jobs. Millie has a fire fighter’s hat and Tom has a doctor’s kit and they are surrounded by a delightful mix of toys. No gender stereotyping here. Let Toys be Toys would be proud.

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It’s a lovely touch to include Grandma and Grandad working on their allotment. Grandad is making a flowerpot from clay and Grandma is digging up the carrots. A positive way to include all the family and show children that not all work is a paid job. I also did a little happy dance to see Tom and Millie finish their quest for inspiration at the library where they find books about all sorts of jobs they could do. The bookworm is a note of genius too!

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Guy Parker-Rees has created a truly child-friendly positive book that will entertain and inspire. I’m really excited about taking this book in to read with the Rainbow Library children. They will enjoy spotting all the characters and those pesky hidden ladybirds and will be able to use this book as a springboard for discussions and role play about jobs. I can just see them all running off to the dressing up box now. Next time, perhaps a bit more variation with the disabled characters rather than just including a couple of wheelchairs. But, extra cake for including rhinos throughout the book!

Source: Kindly sent for review by Orchard Books. Tom and Millie’s Whizzy Busy People is due to be published 6th June 2013.

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