B.C.R Fegan (text), and Lenny Wen (illustrator), Don’t Drink the Pink, TaleBlade Press, August 2019, 40 pp., RRP $24.00 (pbk), ISBN
“Happy birthday, Madeline,” he said with a wink. “Take a potion, take a brew. Just don’t drink the pink.”
Madeline loves her Grandfather Gilderberry. Her parents think he’s a little mad, but she loves him all he more. From the day of her first birthday, Grandpa has presented Madeline with a box of potions and the reminder: “Don’t drink the pink.”
Each year, the potion she chooses takes her on a wild adventure. From breathing fire, to super speed, Madeline’s potions are a yearly birthday surprise. We see Grandpa prepare the potions and bring them year after year to the growing Madeline. The story goes on in this way, and while I thought by her 7th birthday it might be getting too formulaic, I was still keen to know how it would end. Reading as I was to a 5 year-old, he was more engaged than I expected. Often, this kind of repetition is appealing to young readers, as they know what is expected of them.
It was worth every one of those 15 birthdays, though, as we finally discover what happens if you drink the pink. And it is beautiful.
There are layers of learning in this story, and B.C.R Fegan has embedded learning about colours, numbers and the beauty of relationships with grandparents. Accompanied by Lenny Wen’s delightful illustrations, this makes a great addition to discussions on grandparents, as well as loss and grieving. It is a simultaneously sad and hopeful little gem of a story. You’ll all wish you had a box of brews, too.
Reviewed by Belinda Raposo