Review Blog

Jun 06 2014

What happens next? by Tull Suwannakit

cover image

Walker Books, 2014. ISBN 9781922077561.
(Ages: 4-6) Highly recommended. Grandparents. Imagination. When Granny takes her granddaughter, Little Ellie for a walk, she tells her of the bear family, also going for a walk. Little Ellie asks questions of her Granny, questioning her on the bears' habits and practices. All the while, Little Ellie watches the bear family as they walk behind, following their every move, and as each part of the story continues, Little Ellie asks, 'what happens next?', a refrain repeated on each double page. But when Granny looks behind and sees the bear family for herself, it is her turn to ask of Little Ellie, 'what happens next?' as she backs away from the bears, ready to flee.
Unfazed, Little Ellie and Granny go into the woods with the bear family where they meet a number of other animals, even an ogre, and have a dinner of icecream, cakes and honey, before Little Ellie and Granny go home, where the child is tucked into bed.
The transposing of ideas is wonderful, with Little Ellie imagining the family behind her as Granny tells her the story, and then taking shape as Granny and the girl follow the bears after Granny's initial fear, to going to the woods and then back home. The shift from imagination to reality occurs all through the story, encouraging the reader to ponder over which is real and which is not. But over all is the sense of the care and safety of the family unit.
The stunning watercolour illustrations are a treat to read and reread. From the enticing front cover to the alluring endpapers to the inside illustrations of the story itself, the two families are paralleled. The hats of the two Grannies, the handbags and shoes of each participant, the small animals that keep peeping through on most pages, to the wonderful display in the shop, then the dinner at the bear's house, each page is meticulous in its presentation of the story, keeping the reader's interest. I loved the image of the two Grannies with their noses in the air, while their offspring talked to each other. The little images of frogs, rabbits, the birds on the bus stop sign, the sleeping fox on the bus, the animals at dinner, all will elicit a laugh from the audience, while the last endpaper with the group standing together is a lovely contrast to the front cover.
An astute teacher will use this to remind children of other stories of bears, of other tales of ogres and stories which have an element of 'what happens next?' as they proceed. And they could even be encouraged to write their own.
Fran Knight

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