Reviews /

A Practical Present for Philippa Pheasant

Authored by Briony May Smith
Illustrated by Briony May Smith
Published by Walker Books

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My initial reaction on my first reading was that this was perhaps not really representative of the diversity of our communities as it is based in a very rural setting with which some children might not identify readily. However, after re-reading the story, the themes would definitely be appropriate to unpick with children around road safety (applicable to any community) and ‘making a difference’ to the community in which the protagonists live, which reinforces the need to ignore first impressions! I liked the alliterative aspect of the title at outset too.

There is a mix of characters- some animals which would be attractive to young children, and human inhabitants which suggests a more realistic setting. They interact with each other seamlessly which young children would automatically accept – they seem to accommodate animals talking to each other and communicating with humans without question. Philippa Pheasant, the main protagonist and female, lives in the forest close to Fairhurst village. After narrowly escaping being run over, she goes on a campaign to make the roads safer for all the inhabitants by taking on the Mayor who has his own agenda and ignores Philippa’s requests for help. Having observed the local lollipop person (someone whom many children will recognise) she uses the notion of reflective clothing in a creative way to make a difference for her friends. The finale is a surprise and satisfying for the reader.

The autumnal tones, the amusing and interesting details in every scene, and the way Briony has used light and shadow to give her illustrations extra depth, all make the story even more of a delight. Children will spend a lot of time exploring the illustrations as well as considering the links to science (reflection, light), sustainability (recycling) and road safety.

A charming countryside tale that could inspire children to improve their own communities, this is a perfect read aloud story, for parents and teachers, to read over and over again, think about, take in, talk over the themes and explore the beautifully detailed illustrations.