Mo Willems, Nanette’s Baguette, Walker Books Australia, 1 March 2017, 40pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN:9781406376210
Mo Willems, the brilliant three-time Caldecott Honor winner for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity has aced it once again with this wonderfully original, standalone picture book, Nanette’s Baguette.
Nanette’s Baguette is sure to delight all young readers, combining humorous word play, beautifully innovative illustrations and a scenario all children can relate to.
‘Today is a day Nanette won’t soon forget. Today in the kitchenette, Mum tells Nanette that Nanette gets to get the baguette!’
Told through amusing rhymes and with all the trademark humour one has come to expect from the talented Mo Willems, this is the cautionary tale of one young frog’s journey of responsibility and independence. Despite encountering a neighbourly quartet along the way (Georgette, Suzette, Bret and Mr Barnett with his pet Antoinette) Nanette does not forget her mission and travels on through her gorgeous French village to buy her family’s baguette from the local boulangerie and friendly baker Juliette!
Managing to stay on task for the entirety of her short yet distracting journey, Nanette is devastated when she is finally overcome by temptation on her way home. Her expression is one of utter dismay after she succumbs to the overwhelming urge to eat the delicious looking baguette…. and not just some of it… all of it!
Tragedy, anxiety, forgiveness and surprise follow on from there, all perfectly depicted through Willems’ faultlessly drawn facial expressions and lashings of humorous language play along the way.
The illustrations are incredible, handcrafted cardboard constructions, digitally integrated with Mo’s photographed illustrations, speech bubbles and giant onomatopoeic words, almost leap off the page with such a tangible three-dimensional quality that young readers will want to reach their hands inside the pictures and play with the miniature village and characters for themselves.
‘Mum hugs Nanette. It is warm. It is wonderful. (Like a million baguettes.)’
With its important and easily relatable themes of responsibility, temptation and a parent’s warm loving forgiveness, this picture book could be enjoyed in a million different ways at home or in the classroom.
As well as an excellent language play model that teachers could use to challenge children to think of rhyming words and phrases for other food poems or tricky tongue twisters, this title could also inspire some wonderful art and design activities along with imaginative role-play based around specialty shops (French or otherwise) or, and this would be my personal favourite, just provide the perfect excuse to bring some hot, crusty baguettes into the classroom.
This title is sure to fly off book shop and library shelves and be an extremely popular and entertaining choice for young readers and their adults too.
Reviewed by Lisa Hoad