Today’s review is of Beegu by Alexis Deacon. It’s Sam too, flying solo, as Holly has been a little busy lately!
Image courtesy of us.macmillan.com
What it’s about: When Beegu ends up stranded on Earth after her spacecraft crashes, she wanders around in search of help and friendship while she waits for a signal from her mother to say she is coming to rescue her. No one seems able to understand her or wants to help her, particularly the adults, who view her as a nuisance at best. Will she be able to get back to where she belongs?
Sam’s review: Now I’ve had time to mull over this book, I realize that it reminds me of that tearjerker of a film – E.T. Both seek to explore what happens to outsiders and the sorts of friendships that can be forged between unlikely pairs. Both show that children have the capacity to accept the extraordinary and that adults are prone to suspicion and prejudice. And both seem to ultimately say that while we can find kindred spirits, our place lies with those who are most like us.
Beegu is a small, yellow creature that looks rather like a three-eyed rabbit. Imaginary beings are often the staple of nonsense verse and comic writing (think, for example, of Spike Milligan’s Bongaloo, or Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky) but Beegu’s rotund features naturally endear her to children because of her cuddly appearance and her vulnerable size, which makes her more easy for children to identify with. She is more akin to a cuddly toy than an alien.
The basic plot taps into common childhood fears: being lost, being separated from your parents and being rejection by others. The adults are invariably portrayed as hostile towards and fearful of those who are different, as Beegu remarks: ‘…Earth creatures were mostly big and unfriendly…’ although children come off better: ‘but there were some small ones who seemed hopeful’. The message here of course is that children are more open to differences and accepting of others, seen in how the children invite Beegu into their playground games without question.
The book simply but effectively shows how everyone wants to fit in and be welcomed and loved regardless of their appearance. It also emphasises, discretely, that young children have the inherent capability of accepting difference and expresses the hope that they do not lose it as they grow older, as adults have done. This is a sweet sentiment but a little disconcerting as it seems to remove hope or confidence in the adult world as it currently exists. I suppose this is similar in a way to Dr Seuss’ stories but at the end, the ‘adults’ or ‘wrongdoers’ see the error of their ways, whereas the message in this book is very much that intolerance is an adult characteristic. Perhaps this is a subtle way of influencing adults reading the picture book to adopt a more tolerant outlook.
Deacon’s illustrations are intriguing and powerful with a lovely use of contrasting colours and shades – Beegu’s very bright yellow stands out against the grey adult world and blends into the children’s environment to complement the point of the story. The beautiful illustration and sparse text make this a picture book to be read time and time again.