Now here’s an odd one. Fils aîné loves this book and so, apparently, do a lot of other people – it won the Smarties Book Prize silver award, was longlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and has heaps of positive reviews from parents and teachers alike. The landscape format of the book is unusual with one page representing the water and the other the sky, and the back cover blurb featured a Sunday Times review:
“Breaks the mould in form as well as content. “
When we borrowed Tadpole’s Promise from the library a while ago, we knew nothing about it beforehand, yet it left mon mari and me distinctly unsettled. We found ourselves reluctant to read it again, the book was returned to the library and we forgot about it for a while. Then, the other day, the boy came home from school and announced apropos of nothing: “we read that Tadpole’s Promise book on the white board in assembly.” I said, “oh, I didn’t like that book, it was sad,” and got the reply “no it’s not, it’s funny!”
Now, how to explain why without spoilers?
A tadpole and a caterpillar fall in love and make each other a rash promise that they will never change – of course this is a vow that cannot be kept. The tadpole keeps changing, much to the caterpillar’s chagrin. But the ending! Is this a children’s book or a Greek tragedy? I know nature’s red in tooth and claw and all that, and I can see that it could be a welcome antidote to too much saccharine writing for children but… I don’t know whether fils aîné has understood what it’s really about, or whether he’s just the target audience to appreciate that kind of humour. I don’t know whether mari and I are over-thinking, sentimentalising, anthropomorphising too much. Is it hilarious or horrific? I just don’t know.
Have you read it? If so, what did you think? If not, and you’re thinking about reading it to your child(ren) make sure you’ve read it first to try to gauge their reaction!