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Mr Mornington’s Favourite Things

Authored by Karen George
Illustrated by Karen George
Published by Hachette Children's Group

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Karen George uses the bright cover, sprinkled with musical notes and images of ‘favourite things’, to introduce a somewhat sombre topic. Mr Mornington is the next-door neighbour of a young girl who loves to join him in gardening and eating cherry cake, but most of all she loves to listen to him playing his saxophone. He has played all over the world and she thinks he is the world’s best saxophone player. They have their own special song which is about favourite things and Mr Mornington even lets the girl play his world-famous saxophone, although it’s rather too big to handle. She loves it so much that she asks her mother to buy her a saxophone that will fit her size. But lately Mr Mornington has been forgetting things and one day when the girl goes through her special gate into his garden he is not there. Her mother explains that he has gone to live in a new home where he will be looked after. So, the girl practises and practises until she can play their favourite song on her own saxophone. Every time she visits him, she plays the song and sometimes he remembers and sometimes he doesn’t. Time passes. The girl has outgrown the special small gate Mr Mornington made for her into his garden and there are new neighbours, but when she plays her saxophone, the girl feels that Mr Mornington would be proud of the second-best saxophone player in the world.

Karen George is known for her warm portrayals of people, and this book is no different. The girl herself tells the story and the energetic images are matched with memories of the girl’s love of spending time with Mr Mornington in his garden. In one glorious double page spread, where he is playing the song about favourite things, the pages are resplendent with images of toys, rainbows, friends, mum, socks, hairbands, birthday cake candles, swings, cherry cakes and much more – all interspersed with musical notes. It’s easy to imagine this being the starting point for young readers to make their own collection of favourite things. Karen George uses colour and white space to express emotion: when everything is great fun there’s not much space on the pages and she uses bright primary colours; when Mr Mornington has left, rather like the use of white space in John Burningham’s ‘Granpa’, the page is almost blank, the plants have shrivelled from lack of care and an empty cup lies upturned on the floor. But when Mr Mornington does occasionally remember his favourite things, there is a riot of flowers, slippers, gardening tools, the dog, his woolly hat, cherry cakes, the radio, a car and, of course, his saxophone. And the colour remains as the girl grows older and remembers her friend when she plays their favourite song for others. Children from 3 or 4 years upwards may enjoy sharing this sensitive presentation of a sensitive topic.

Shortlisted for the Spark Book Awards 2024 Picture Fiction for Early Readers