Wednesday, 24 April 2013

My Funny Family, by Chris Higgins

My Funny Family is a very sweet and simple story for young readers following the exploits of Mattie and her rather large and higgledy-piggledy family. It’s a really natural story with lovely characters who are easy to relate to, large, straightforward text, and pictures scattered throughout to help illustrate the story.

At nine, Mattie’s the second oldest of five children, has an artist father, full-time mum, a dog called Jellico, and a busy, bustling extended family who pop in and out of her house and her story. On the surface, it seems as if Chris Higgins has written a pretty simple story, but when you look deeper there are several different threads and concepts running through it, weaving together to create a compact, smart and thoughtful little plotline. Alongside the tender family dynamics is a storyline about seeds and growing plants, nature and hints of self-sufficiency, and also about Mattie’s tendency to worry about things.

A fairly sensitive young lady, Mattie picks up easily on the chatter that’s going on around her and the little messages passed between adults, but is too young yet to be able to pick apart the subtleties of adult speak. So when her mum makes a passing comment about having been to the doctor, and then her Gran makes a passing comment about her mum looking peaky, the worry knots in Mattie’s brain go into overdrive.

Mum says that when I get worried my brain changes to spaghetti and gets all tangled up.” (back cover)

She takes things to heart, and begins to worry and worry about what might be going on, but she is lucky enough to have a very caring set of parents used to untangling her worry-spaghetti. They’re never going to be able to stop her from worrying completely about stuff, but they can help her control them and allay her bigger fears.

As someone who is very good at getting her own worry-spaghetti tangled up, I completely related to Mattie, and found her story to be sensitive and caring and realistic. And it’s funny too - from an adult perspective! - which is a big thumbs up for any mums and dads in charge of bedtime reading. The first in a series of at least three titles, My Funny Family is a great book to have on a youngster’s bookshelf whether for their own reading or for reading aloud.

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