I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of Emma Perry and Rikin Parekh’s This Book Has Alpacas and Bears! A fun and quietly clever look at the power of representation in picture books.
There’s nothing that Alphonse loves more than a good book, but when he realises they are all about Bears and none are about Alpacas like him he wants to change that.
When he tries to recruit the help of his Bear friend Colin, he is shocked to hear that this is because Alpacas are clumsy and annoying!! So Alphonse sets out to change hearts and minds.
Whilst fun and silly and joyful showing the power of friendship and stories this book is also a beautiful ode to inclusion and representation in children’s literature.
It is true that many children of different races, heritage, disabilities, family lifestyles and orientations do not see themselves represented in books as much as others do. This is gently probed through anthropomorphised animals and the use of bears- which interestingly The CLPE’s Reflecting Realities report suggested a picture book was more likely to have an animal as a main character than a child of colour, something that echoes earlier US kidlit research that specifically states bears- something I think is used rather tongue in cheek here.
Alphonse is determined to show his worth and surprises the bears at how awesome he is and more than deserving of a book, and as bear reveals much more. What I love especially is how Alphonse is determined not to give up and encouraging his friend to help him make a book and ensures he gets the help he needs to write his own story and inspire others. This is a fabulous message to give young children to be yourself and in doing so be the guiding light, to speak up and out and to actively fill the gaps don’t let them widen, let your light shine and join up with others.
Emma Perry has such a playful approach to storytelling with a literary twist, there’s much to be made within teaching literacy and storytelling from both This Book Has Alpacas and Bears and her previous book I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. Alongside hinting at the social issues the publishing process is summarised briefly showing that it takes a lot of hands including (the squirrel illustrator) and stages to create a book but perseverance and heart is key.
Rikin Parekh has such a playful and dynamic style of illustration that adapts to suit each project but still sings with Rikin’s bold use of black inky strokes and dot eyes that scream with life and expression. Thanks to Rikin, throughout we can’t help but laugh, commiserate and cheer for Alphonse falling in love with him from the start.
Grown-up readers will giggle at visual references to Jimi Hendrix, Tony Hawk and amongst the book titles 50 Shades of Bear and my girls were overjoyed to note the Bearmon and The Bear who came to Tea references amongst others.. We’ve been inspired at home to come up with our own Alphonse titles including imagining a version of Alphonse Fang!
Overall, this is a playful book with a powerful message but without being preachy and definitely worth adding to every school and home book collection.
Make sure you stop and check out all the other stops on the tour!!
Thank you to Emma, Rikin and the team at David Fickling Books for creating this book and inviting me to celebrate it!!
This Book has Alpacas and Bears by Emma Perry and Rikin Parekh is published by David Fickling Books