Nicki Greenberg, Meerkat Choir, Allen & Unwin, Oct 2017, 32pp., $24.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760290795
The meerkat choir is ready to begin. ‘And a ONE—and a TWO—and a THREE—‘ begins the meerkat conductor. But they are interrupted by a turtle who’d like to join. ‘This is a meerkat choir,’ explains the conductor and the turtle leaves downhearted. As the rehearsal is interrupted time and time again by other animals wanting to join, the conductor gets more and more annoyed until finally they make a sign to ensure they are left alone. But when the meerkats finally get to sing, the sound is not what the conductor anticipated. Abandoned by the conductor, the meerkats seek to join the choir that has been started by the rejected animals. Together they create a wonderful sound and everyone (except the conductor) is happy at last.
I love the Meerkat Choir. It’s charming and funny book that contains an important message about inclusion. The ‘Meerkat Choir Full. Go Away.’ sign is reminiscent of the racism occurring in some parts of our society today, especially when it comes to people seeking asylum. I think this book is a lovely response to that, and an easy and engaging way to highlight the positives of acceptance and diversity.
The cartoon illustrations are fantastic. The meerkat’s expressions are hilarious, as is the depiction of the growing annoyance of the conductor. The whole story is told through the pairing of speech-bubble dialogue and illustration, and it is a joy to read aloud—my 4-year-old laughed several times when we read it together. For a book with such sparse text, it is remarkable how strong and individual the characters are, and I found myself putting on funny voices for each of them.
The only thing that seems to let this book down is the cover. It may be the background colour or perhaps the title font, but unfortunately the cover of the book doesn’t have the same visual appeal that a lot of currently popular children’s books have. Hopefully everyone takes a peek inside.
A fantastic book by an Australian author and illustrator. Highly recommended for children 3-6 years of age.
Reviewed by Rebecca Blakeney