Emily Gravett is a big favourite. Her illustrations are witty and her text punchy and spare. The Blue Chameleon makes H laugh lots. He has a sort of music hall comedian persona, rocking up to various unlikely candidates for friendships, morphing into their shape and colour and attempting to charm them: ‘hello, hello, hello’, he says to the cockatoo; ‘howdy’, to the brown boot, ‘can I hang out with you?’ to the sock on the washing line.
H loves to be asked on each page whether it would be a good idea to have a boot or a snail or a sock for a friend, and then to shout ‘No!’ and collapse into giggles. I am not sure whether he quite understands why another chameleon makes a good friend for the Blue Chameleon but a stripy sock does not, but maybe that deeper level of comprehension will come with time and assiduous cultivation of his intelligence.
Blue Chameleon also contains a cockatoo. If any of you reading are also parenting a child in a country not your own, you will understand the wild anxiety I feel that my child will grow up an ignoramus of things Australian. I envisage relatives sighing as an older H asks ‘what is that sandy expanse with water lapping at its base?’ or ‘who are those men standing on the brightly decorated planks?’ or ‘what’s with all this driving everywhere? Don’t you guys have an underground and an extensive network of buses for me to memorise?’
So a cockatoo is a godsend. And it’s no common or garden sulphur-crested number, it’s a pink cockatoo, also known as the Major Mitchell’s cockatoo. I can breathe easy, imagining H spotting one out bush and saying ‘no, foolish relatives, although that bird looks almost indistinguishable from a galah, in fact it is a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, and nor is he any friend to the chameleon'.
Others we have loved by Emily Gravett include Dogs, which H adored almost from birth, and Monkey and Me. As with Blue Chameleon, these are brilliant for bedtimes after long and frustrating days when you are dreaming of a glass of wine and some alone time. They are meaty and clever, but very short, so you can sprint through bedtime without suffering from the guilt associated with fobbing your child off with Fireman Sam Touch and Feel, which takes about five seconds to read but leaves you feeling dirty.
H comment: ‘Blue Lameley-len!’