Reviews /

A Perfect Wonderful Day with Friends

Authored by Philip Waechter
Illustrated by Philip Waechter
Published by Gecko Press

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A Perfect Wonderful Day with Friends is a real treat. It tells the tale of a peaceful day during which five animal friends seek each other out and enjoy each other’s company, helping to fix little problems along the way. The book emanates serenity and contentment. It’s a soothing read and a warm picture of easy, relaxed friendship between characters who are very different from each other. It is one of the few picture books by Waechter available in translation, and it’s easy to see why he is so highly regarded in Germany. This apparently simple tale is underpinned by a wisdom and richness that opens up great opportunities for discussion.

Raccoon has a problem. He is bored, and although he knows several good things to do when he’s bored, today he wants to make a cake. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any eggs – so it’s off to Fox’s house, who (rather humorously, I think) keeps chickens. Fox is happy to help but has a problem of her own – her roof is broken, and she doesn’t have a ladder. So, it’s off to Badger’s house, because he has everything. Badger has a problem too – which they think Bear can help with… and so the pattern continues. However, each time they decide to seek out another friend, the emphasis is less on the problem and more on how happy they are to be spending time in each other’s company.

‘Perfect!’ thinks Badger. ‘A climbing expedition with Raccoon, Fox and Crow.’

Each animal has a house that shows their unique personality. Raccoon’s is cosy and tidy, with neatly shelved books and a highly organised kitchen filled with jams and fruit and cooking equipment. Badger’s is a delightful clutter of curiosities – antiques, games, car tyres, a dinghy, pictures, boxes… Badger is obviously a very different sort of character to Raccoon. They find Bear fishing patiently – and here we get a joyous dive into technical fishing vocabulary, followed by an even more joyous dive into the river – because Fox can’t wait, and wants to pounce on the fish!

‘Perfect!’ thinks Bear. ‘A swim with Raccoon, Fox, Badger and Crow.’

As the sky fades to a deep sunset the friends return home, helping each other as needed along the way. I particularly enjoyed the detail that Bear gets her own whole cake at the end – because ‘Bears have big appetites’. A nice way into discussions of fairness and equity in the classroom, perhaps.

The artwork is truly lovely – simple and rich in detail and emotional resonance at the same time. The animals could easily be copied by a child. The interiors of the houses are fascinatingly detailed and I have caught myself poring for ages over these illustrations, finding new secrets to the characters’ personalities and interests. The outdoor landscapes are rural and idyllic, but also have a sense of realness to them. There are recognisable plants and animals dotting the background but such details never overwhelm the peaceful atmosphere – and behind it all, the changing watercolour tones of the sky are truly beautiful.

This would be a great addition to any primary classroom, and offers much scope for discussion about personal relationships, individuality, managing problems and adapting to others. The book says a great deal about priorities, compassion and slowing down to really be present with people – or it could say nothing at all, but just be enjoyed as a relaxing and peaceful tale.

Happy and healthy category finalist, Teach Early Years Awards 2022