Meeka, Suzanne Barton (author), Anil Tortop (illus.), Bluebell Books, October 2017.

Cooking, singing and a sense of community are a few of the big ‘ingredients’ mixed into this lively story. Debut author, Suzanne Barton’s words lyrically glide through the pages, adding a peppering of whimsical phrases, a sprinkle of rhyme and a dash of alliteration that young children will love to repeat. And the quickened tempo towards the end builds the playful drama, which Anil Tortop’s ebulliently rich illustrations perfectly keep up with in all the right spots.

Preschoolers will immediately fall in love with the cheeky, greedy little market bird in Meeka. Not only does this tale offer an endearing character to have a little chuckle at, but it also provides a great sense of culture, friendship, paternal bond and a global humanity. Readers will find opportunity to relate their own cooking and market trip experiences, as well as discussing the importance of coming together in times of need.

As the little girl and her Dad prepare a plentiful dish of spicey, dicey stew for their market customers, the gluttonous bird Meeka is off sampling a taste of every other type of cuisine he can get his beak on. From crusty French bread to buttery corn on the cob, fluffy, puffy fairy floss and sticky, licky toffee. But in an almost disastrous turn of events, Meeka is accidentally sold to an elderly lady, asleep in a Moroccan tagine. And this is where the chase to rescue the little bird begins, before he becomes bird stew!

Meeka is a zesty, delicious blend of fun, energy, surprise and warmth. From the love between father and daughter, to the love of a little bird, this story beautifully demonstrates how acceptance, appreciation and compassion can forge strong relationships within a diverse society. Children from age three will devour every page turn, demanding repeat reads until they are completely satisfied.

Read our interview here with author Suzanne Barton!

Review by Romi Sharp.

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