Philippa Cleall, Pepperpot & Spice, Coastal Herd Tales, 16 Sept 2017, 32pp., $15.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780994564726
Pepperpot & Spice is Philippa Cleall’s third picture book; a rhyming story about an overweight cat on a mission for fitness. The author aims to raise awareness of healthy living and friendship, and also includes a character with a disability with the focus being on its strength rather than weakness. Readers will find humour in the painted illustrations with a Fitbit-wearing, penny-farthing-riding and roller skating Pepperpot. At the same time, they will notice the capabilities of Spice, her walking-wheels feline friend.
It is when Pepperpot is approached on her walk by magpie, Feathers McClaw and Buster the German Shepherd that her saviour, Spice, wheels her out of trouble. The story begins with the attention towards Pepperpot determined to lose weight and get fit. However it then shifts when the conflict is raised, with the resolve being the cat’s rescue. Although the story concludes by tying back in the ‘fitness’ theme (with ‘rolling’ cats and some new mice friends), young children might mistake this focus for Spice being the leader / heroine of the pack. With further discussion, though, readers can be encouraged to identify what it means to have healthy eating and exercise habits, as well as safety in and around the neighbourhood. There is also opportunity to explore differences, special needs and protecting our friends.
Pepperpot & Spice is a gentle and entertaining story to read aloud with several facets to consider. Recommended for children from preschool to early years primary.
Reviewed by Romi Sharp