Monday, 24 September 2012

Churchill's Tale of Tails, by Anca Sandu

In Churchill's Tale of Tails, Churchill is quite a cute little piggy with a typical curly pig’s tail. But one day, when he gets up in the morning, his tail has gone missing. After searching high and low in his own little house, he starts calling his friends to see if they have any ideas about where it might be. This is when Zebra steps in: he has a spare tail that Churchill can try. The zebra tail is fun but doesn’t feel quite right. It does, however, give Churchill an idea: perhaps he should try some other, different tails to see how they feel?

“He tried little tails, spotty tails, snappy tails, and tails that made him feel big.”

What with all this important tail-trying-on, and the different ways they make him feel, Churchill is so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he starts to ignore his friends. But then, after a bit of a nighttime scare, he finally finds his own tail again.

“Finding his old tail made Churchill feel like his old self again.” And feeling like his old self again helps him to remember all of his friends.

Anca Sandu’s pictures did make me smile, especially when Churchill tries on the peacock’s tail. The animals are sweet and the things they’re shown doing are quite quirky and fun. But the story didn’t really convince me.

Firstly, I’m not too sure about the idea that animals can take off their tails; I wouldn’t want my child to get the impression that this is what happens in real life; it’s a tad misleading. Secondly, the way that Churchill tries on all sorts of different animals’ tails is almost like he is trying on lots of different personalities to see which one fits him best. Granted, in the end he does realise that his own tail is best (well, most of the time), but rather than focussing on this aspect of the story, Sandu turns it around and makes it about Churchill ignoring his friends. This is a bit of an about-turn: three quarters of the book is spent talking about different tails, showing the different animals they come from and the different they make Churchill feel, and then suddenly Churchill is talking about being a bad pig and ignoring his friends. I’m not saying that this secondary idea isn’t important, but I do think it would have been better if Sandu had written two separate stories: one that is more concisely about the importance of your friends, and one that is more concisely about being true to oneself. Instead, she has tried to blend the two together, meaning that neither aspect truly succeeds.

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