Erin Knutt (text), Misa Alexander (illus.), Fergus and Delilah, Self-published, 1 Nov 2016, 30pp., $24.00 (hbk), ISBN: 9780994605214
Fergus and Delilah is a beautiful story about inclusion, friendship, and understanding that we are all ‘wired a little differently’. It begins with Delilah, scoping out a new park, where she could see many potential friends:
“The kids were like her,
with heads that were square,
and heartbeats and brains,
and wires for hair.”
The story cleverly shares how Delilah makes lots of different friends, but struggles to connect with the little boy in blue, Fergus, who doesn’t speak, and whose cables are tangled and twisted. Not put off by her past attempts, Delilah continues trying to befriend Fergus, at last breaking through by joining with his spinning and dancing – communicating in a way other than speech. Fergus, the back page tells us, is on the Autism Spectrum, and his tangled wires mean that while loud noises and shouting confuse him, he loves dancing, spinning, playing in the park and finding small spots to hide in.
Having a friend like Delilah helps the children in the park realise that they can all play together, enjoying each other’s company even though each of them is ‘wired differently’. The metaphor of computer cables visually expresses how each person experiences the world differently, but that it is possible to find ways to connect and build friendship, if we are just patient and resilient, like Delilah.
Written in rhyme, with colourful, child-like illustrations, Fergus and Delilah is a wonderful platform for introducing the concepts of difference, inclusion and friendship. It is supported by a website, which provides further information about inclusivity, as well as teaching activities and discussion prompts.
The author and illustrator, two Mums from Northern New South Wales, have recognised the power of the picture book to educate and entertain, and hope that Fergus and Delilah will teach children about inclusivity, and lead to greater understanding and compassion. A must-have picture book for every school library and family collection!
Reviewed by Kay Oddone