The Little Island

The Little Island

The Little Island
Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illus Robert Starling

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783449095

There was once a farm where all the animals were friends. Together they looked after the farm and each other. It wasn't perfect and they didn't always agree (animals almost never do). But they liked it. One day the geese begin to gossip. Before long they hatch a plan to leave the farm. Will life be perfect now? A powerful modern-day fable for our times told with humour and warmth, and most importantly, hope. A story of building bridges not barriers, respect not resentment and of finding friendship, not fear.

Librarian's Book choice

This is an exceptional picture book for helping children explore ideas around working together, being inclusive and kindness, not to mention providing an astonishingly good summary of how politics works - and how voting for one thing doesn't always lead to the best outcome for everyone. Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and illustrated by Robert Starling, the story follows the animals on a farm who are shown working well together and happily sharing tasks with just the odd disagreement, until the Geese decide that there are too many other animals on their island and they would be better off on their own (sound familiar?). So they take a vote (the poor Ducks are outnumbered!) and decide to pull down the bridge that links their island with the rest of the farm.

So far, so Brexit. At first, the Geese are happy but as winter begins and the previously shared jobs remain undone, being alone on their island isn't as comfortable as they had hoped it would be. Moreover, the geese have put everyone's safety at risk by closing off the island to the other animals; the wolves are on the prowl and there's no one left to help rescue them.

Naturally, the picture book ends well with the other animals finding a clever way to come to the rescue of the Geese and Ducks, and the Geese have learned a valuable lesson; that trying to do things on their own, and excluding other groups, doesn't always end well. Together, we discover, the animals are stronger and better off.

While the Brexit message won't be lost on adults, what this picture book does is provide a sensitive and inclusive way to explore current politics - which in the adult world have been so devisive - with young children through its expressive, gentle story. The illustrations by Robert Starling are brilliantly expressive and really capture all the emotions the animals are feeling. There are also lots of humorous details to explore within them.

While The Little Island can be shared as a story about teamwork with younger children, for older children it lends itself to discussions around politics, democracy and voting. There are lots of ways you can explore the text and vocabulary used through the book, and to discuss the basic concepts of democracy.

I could see this exploration leading to discussions around school councils and how children can make their voices heard, and to debates and voting within the classroom as a follow-up activity. In summary, this is an outstanding picture book, and a brilliant resource for any classroom and library.

Picture book / Ages 4-adult / Reviewed by Ellen Green.