Book Review: Brothers from a Different Mother

Brothers from a Different Mother, Phillip Gwynne (author), Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (illus.), Penguin Books, 2017

Synopsis: From a master storyteller comes this heartfelt tale of friendship . . . and seeing past our differences.

Tapir lives in the jungle. Pig lives in the village. But when they meet at the waterhole, they discover they are the same in so many ways. They might even be brothers from a different mother!

I’m a huge fan of picture books which address themes such as judgement, acceptance, diversity, difference, commonalities, perception, prejudices, understanding and the like, and this picture book delivers wonderfully.

 

In the story, Tapir and Pig focus more on all the things they have in common – like being only children, and enjoying playing in the waterhole, chasing butterflies and eating yummy things – than on the fact that they’re different species. They do, after all, look quite alike too, even though one lives in the jungle and one in the village.

The picture book tells the age-old Romeo and Juliet style of story, where two characters find each other and want to spend time together, but who have parents who try to keep them apart because of their own fears and prejudices. This is done in a fresh, fun way by author Phillip Gwynne though, that’s perfect for young readers.

Kids will love seeing the antics that Tapir and Pig get up, and the joy they have together (particularly children who have always longed to have a brother or sister). Plus, children will no doubt be very impacted by the demonstration of the parents’ fear, as they try to keep the characters apart, and then later, the understanding and acceptance that unfolds. The story ends with hope and unity, as we see the fathers of the pair meet when searching for their children. They soon realize there is more in common than expected between the families.

The story is touching and meaningful, and will act as a wonderful conduit for discussions between children and adults about numerous important social topics. In addition, kids can learn about both jungle, and suburban farm animals, and their lifestyles and habitats. It’s lovely to see a tapir in a picture book too – not an animal that we get to see very often in literature!

The illustrator, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall has done a wonderful job of bringing this story, and its characters and themes, to life. There is a lot of great colour used throughout her insightful illustrations, plus many details for kids to pick up on during numerous readings.

The facial expressions on each animal throughout is telling, and the illustration style is bright and exuberant, but also quite realistic, which suits the subject matter well. The illustrations are made up of double-page spreads, single page images, and vignettes, which adds variety and affects the pacing of the story in an effective way, too.

The book is suitable for children aged around three to four years and up.

Please note: a complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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