Fifi Box (text) and Freda Chu (illustrator), Minty Mae Gray and the Strangely Good Day, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishers, October 2021, 32 pp., RRP $19.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760508722
Minty Mae Gray and the Strangely Good Day is radio and TV Fifi Box’s debut picture book. While Box holds Australian celebrity status as station radio show Fox FM host (part of the Fifi, Fev and Nick team), she is also a strong advocate for challenging society’s beauty standards and encouraging women to embrace their own natural beauty. Hence, her debut picture book channels body positivity for children.
What’s not to love about a girl with a name like Minty Mae Gray? According to not very nice classmate, Cordelia Glass, Minty has a few body quirks.
Now yes it was true (Minty already knew) that her nose was like a ski jump.
Written in rhyming verse, we follow Minty’s wild travels inside her Art Book where the reader meets famous artists and their subjects examining their quirky looks. She bumps into the Mona Lisa dressed in brown with a horrible frown who Minty thinks looks a delight. There’s a conversation with the nude Venus (of Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli) that will produce a few reader giggles. But the feisty Minty confirms to Venus she looks strong and divine. And Frida Kahlo’s mono brow isn’t off limits either.
At times the rhyme stress is off and the series of verse long, but Chiu’s vibrant illustrations will hold the reader’s attention. Her textured use of crayon, pencil and watercolour gives the book a quality, artsy tone.
Minty Mae Gray and the Strangely Good Day is a fun, rhyming story for children aged 5-8 years that reads like a longer picture book.
Reviewed by Stef Gemmill