Hare and Pihoihoi are enjoying a beautiful dawn breaking over the meadow when Pihoihoi wonders aloud, "What colour is the sky?"
Hare thinks it is blue, but when they talk to Hedgehog, Snail, Mouse, Frog and Ruru, the other creatures each say the sky is a different colour. Why does this happen?
This book explores the idea that all of us see from different perspectives. Through its beautiful illustrations, it explores the wonder of nature and shows young children the importance of listening and respecting other opinions, even when we see things differently.
One of the most important lessons that a child can learn is that people can have different opinions - sometimes poles apart - and that this is ok. Respect for another's beliefs is fundamental to a civilised society, and individual differences just serve to make people more interesting. Diversity is a strength in the animal kingdom, and after all humans are just one species on this planet. Being insular and exclusionist is a recipe for disaster in the long term. This applies whether it is social or physical. Many wars have started because of intolerance, whether on racial or ideological grounds; some of the leaders that started those wars should have read this book when they were children!
The book takes this idea and presents it in a format that is accessible even to the very young. Miss Five and Mr Three were able to follow the story without difficulty, and quickly grasped the different ways the main characters saw the sky. It is easy for little ones to tell the difference between a sunny day, when the sky appears to be mainly blue, and a rainy or foggy day when it is quite another colour. And then night-time offers another perspective entirely! Hare and Pihoihoi and their friends are able to engage children's imaginations in a non-threatening, entertaining way. Not only does this help them to make sense of the world around them, but the process is thoroughly enjoyable.
Shallcrass' artwork is stunning. The adults who read the book with the children were completely captivated - one of them described the illustrations as breathtaking. They are the sort of pictures that hold appeal for a wide age range, not just children - in fact, one or two would not be out of place framed and hung on a wall as a point of focus. I especially liked the detail in the snail section (just before Snail's answer) and the picture of Mouse sitting on Frog's back. To me, the artwork is reminiscent of a fusion of Maori and Japanese styles.
The book includes a section on scientific facts - a little too advanced for Miss Five and Mr Three, but of great interest for the adults and older children. As the two smallest children get older, they too will benefit from this information. Children are naturally curious so they will graduate to exploring this section as and when they are ready. It is useful that the book is presented in a strong binding which means it will last many years of robust handling from small fingers. Incidentally, a few years ago I kept bees, and was intrigued to learn that bees too cannot see the range of colours that humans can. They can see blues but not reds. And my beekeeping costume was white because that is a neutral colour for bees so it would not aggravate them!
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"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend"