‘Mum pressed the button and the screen went black…’
When Mum turns off the TV, Tilly can’t think what to do. Her toybox doesn’t look inviting, but there’s a little bird singing in the garden, so Tilly goes outside to investigate. The bird isn’t behind the greenhouse, or inside the flowerpots. Could it be playing hide and seek?
Searching under a bush, Tilly discovers a stick that looks very like a magic wand, and as her imagination takes over, we see the garden through new eyes. A tiny wildlife park appears to contain snakes, armadillos and even a rhinoceros, and all sorts of fun activities suggest themselves: wrapping leaves around found objects to give as presents, or using them to make a twirly skirt. When Mum tells her to come indoors, Tilly begs to be allowed to stay outside. That bird still hasn’t been found, and surely there’s time for one more game of hide and seek?
Entertaining yourself with few resources may be an old-fashioned pleasure, but it’s a satisfying and rewarding skill, and one that Wenda Shurety explores in an inviting way. Children are brought on board with a clear narrative, and imaginative forays are framed in a way that cues and reassures readers with less experience of ‘how books work’ – including family members who may be sharing picturebooks at home.
‘Abracadabra! Instantly the wand became a bird-spotting telescope…’
Harriet Hobday’s painterly landscapes will please imaginative art-lovers as well as readers who prefer their picturebooks to capture the flavour of ‘real life’. Hobday’s saturated blue-green palette highlighted with warm oranges, pinks and yellows is inviting, and allows her to create a world suffused with evening sun and possibilities. The final spread of the garden expanding to become a jungly paradise is particularly enjoyable.
Nature’s Toy Box is a quiet gem that will appeal to children who already love imaginative garden play, but those who are new to its delights will be charmed by this book, too.