How to build the perfect cubby house by Heath McKenzie

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Scholastic Australia, 2019. ISBN: 9781760152673.
(Age: 4-8) Recommended. Themes: Families, Cubby Houses, Diversity. Heath McKenzie (illustrator of Andy Lee's Do Not Open This Book series and author/illustrator of a whole swag of picture books) has created this happy celebration of family and togetherness. Despite this being a depiction of one family, it incorporates cultural diversity in such a way that every child will see themselves and their own family represented. The family tree in the endpapers shows how this big, varied family fits together (with a same sex couple, a single mother, couples of different skin colour and cultural/religious heritage). The dedication also shows Heath's big and intricate family tree, which obviously inspired this book. The story is structured as an instructional 14-step plan to building the perfect cubby house: '1. Have a plan, 2. Listen to others, 3. Allow plans to change, etc.'. The first page shows a young child and his dad starting work on a little cubby, and on each subsequent page a new family member enters and gives their opinion on what else the cubby house needs (e.g., a garage for bikes, a movie room, a secret lair, a kitchen, a library). By the time we get to step '13. Celebrate your hard work' the monstrous, multi-levelled cubbyhouse is threatening to fall down under the weight of all the additions. When it does, all that is left is the little cubby house that we started with, but that is okay because 'the perfect cubby house only needs to be one thing . . . a place where everyone is . . welcome'. This is a great story that ultimately highlights the beauty of families as places of belonging, even when everyone has their own individual differences. The busy illustrations are fun and messy (much like families themselves) and the use of speech bubbles means that the story is appropriately told through the varied voices of the family members.
Nicole Nelson