Reviews /

Big Hid

Authored by Roisin Swales
Illustrated by Roisin Swales
Published by Flying Eye Books

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Roisin Swales’ beautiful and thoughtful book Big Hid will be a welcome addition to children’s shelves. The story seems deceptively simple. ‘Big and Little are a great team’ they have lots of fun together, but one day, ‘Big hid’ and Little ‘didn’t know what to do’. Little tries a variety of kind gestures to cheer his friend up, but it is the final hug that tempts Big to emerge from his shell (quite literally given he is a tortoise).

The text is short and sweet with some subtle word play on ‘Big’ and ‘Little’, some effective repetition and a clever positioning of the text on the page. I particularly liked the spread with just three words ‘Then…’ ‘…Big hid!’ separated by ‘Big’ sitting in the gutter of the book. The character’s eyes are expressive in a way which is reminiscent of Jon Klassen’s work and eagle-eyed readers will spot the humour and intertextual nod in the tortoise taking racing gold on the podium. While there are under 130 words in total (yes, I did count them) the pictures and colours do much of the hard work, for example, when Big hides, and Little wonders what is wrong, the black page reflects the mood.

What stands out in this book though is that it doesn’t offer a straight answer. Big hid but we don’t know why and, more importantly, we don’t need to. Sometimes, the text reminds us, people – or tortoises in this case, just need to hide for a while and all a friend needs to do is stand by them. This will no doubt foster many empathetic conversations at home and in the classroom about sadness, space, mental health and how to be a good friend.