Mem Fox (text) Judy Horacek (illus), This & That, Scholastic Australia, 1 Oct 2015, 32pp., $19.99 (hbk) ISBN 9781743622537
I’m a huge Mem Fox fan. I grew up with Possum Magic, read my twins to sleep with Time for Bed and can recite Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes pretty much by heart. But when I opened Fox’s latest book This & That, I confess, I didn’t really get it. A mother (or father) mouse tells a young mouse a bedtime tale, but it’s not written like a typical story, more like random snippets – a bit of this and that. And there’s quite a lot of repetition.
There’s a sentence to a page at most, often less, so I figured it wouldn’t take long to try it out on my little man, aged 3. And it’s by Mem Fox!! So I read it to him and then asked if he’d liked it and did he want me to read it again – and he said yes to both. So, we read it again. And again, and again.
The more we read it, the more I see in it. You can simply read it cover to cover. The rhyme and rhythm make it enjoyable to read out loud (and easy if you’re tired or it’s the tenth bedtime story!). Or you can pause at each new snippet of “this and that” and use it as a prompt to make up a story of your own, perhaps with your child’s help. For example, “I’ll tell you a story of two speckled hens, who were terribly, terribly fat”. The repetition makes it easy for little ones to join in “reading” too. And it has a signature Fox “bonding-at-bedtime” ending to send little ones to sleep with love: “I’ll tell you a story of how I adore you…”.
Judy Horacek’s bright, colourful illustrations bring the text to life, providing more detail and plenty to talk about. Children can name the colours used in the rainbow bunting and reinforce those colours when they’re used again in boxes stacked on a carriage and in the stars in the sky. There’s fruit to count and animals to spot too – my little man was thrilled to see a pair of sheep, right out of Where is the Green Sheep?
So, despite my initial hesitancy, this book’s a winner at our house.
This and That is the third book Fox and Horacek have collaborated on, after the award-winning Where is the Green Sheep? and Good Night, Sleep Tight.
Reviewed by Carissa Mason