From the delightful tool-decorated end pages and superb double spread pictures to the engaging story, the exceptional quality of this book stands out. Young Eddie finds that his family’s new neighbour is an expert handyman who is prepared to share his practical knowledge. Not only is Eddie allowed to watch Tom, he is helped to play an active part in making and mending things (under supervision, of course, and there is detailed advice about safety in an appendix). He marks the wood which is to be a base for Tilly’s new bed with a pencil, and then has a go at sawing. When his little sister Lily screams at bath time, Eddie has the idea of making her a wooden boat.
The illustrations show three interrelated worlds: Eddie and Tom’s which is full of practical activity, Lily and Tilly’s as they enjoy their friendship and collect garden snails together, and the world of the adults in the two families – Mum and Tom. (The relationship between the adults is enigmatic.) In this story bringing up children and keeping them cared for and happy is shown as satisfying but also jolly hard work. There are frustrations as well as joys. Most of us have encountered children who hate having their hair washed as much as Lily does! Nor does Eddie get his hands-on tasks right first time. Pets behave all too realistically as well. Pusskin devours a sparrow while everyone else is enjoying lunch. Mum knows how to help soothe the children’s sadness and the bird is buried in a little box and flowers strewn on the grave. Then Eddie’s practical imagination goes into top gear: thought bubbles show his developing idea for a bird table where birds can be safe while they are eating. The high point comes when Mum and Tom give Eddie his own toolbox with everything in it for making and repairing things. His first project is to make a door in the fence so that the two families have easy access to each other’s garden. This warm but realistic book will appeal to children ready to move from early picture books to illustrated stories with more written text.