Heidi McKinnon, There’s No Such Thing, Allen & Unwin, March 2020, 32 pp., RRP $19.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760877279
When I first opened this book, I was sitting by myself at my desk. About halfway through I realised: I am reading this aloud… to myself… in an empty house. Somehow, I had been sucked straight into a performative read. If that’s not a sign of an engaging book, I don’t know what is.
In addition to being immediately caught up in the delicious graphics, vibrant sounds, and overall design, I think I must have gone straight to reading aloud because the book felt familiar. When I got to the end, I realised it was by the same author as one of my all time favourite read-alouds — I Just Ate My Friend. I hadn’t recognised Heidi McKinnon’s name, but her trademark aesthetic had reeled me right in.
Like I Just Ate My Friend, There’s No Such Thing has a fun twist at the end. But it feels a little more serious along the way. It’s the story of Bear and Ted. Bear is on his first camping trip and his imagination runs wild when things go bump in the night. Ted patiently reassures him, offering reasonable explanations for the strange sounds they can hear.
In my mind, this is picture book perfection. It’s fun and light-hearted yet can be used to kickstart some great conversations about real and pretend, worries and anxiety, and strategies for moving past and even making friends with our fears. There are so many openings for conversations and learning without a hint of didactic dirge. These are the books our kids need to read. To learn to love stories, to learn to love reading, and to learn about life. Its place on the CBCA 2021 Shortlist for the Early Childhood list is very much well deserved.
Reviewed by Liz Patterson