The meerkat choirmaster has assembled the choir for practice. As he, or she, is about to start, a turtle asks to join. As the choir is for meerkats only, the turtle is turned away. Other animals also want to join the choir, and one by one an increasingly annoyed choirmaster turns them away. Even with a change of sign indicating the choir is full, animals ask to join. When the choir eventually starts to sing, the choirmaster is horrified and storms off. The meerkats find another choir, just right for them.
What a fun book! The facial expressions of the animals, especially the choirmaster, add to the storytelling brilliantly. The verbal text is written in speech bubbles or on the Meerkat Choir sign. This use of intraiconic text serves several purposes. Firstly, this verbal disruption mirrors the disruption caused by the animals wanting to join the choir and the choirmaster’s obvious feelings when this disruption occurs. Secondly, the speech bubbles add to the noisiness of the book. Even before the choir starts to sing, there appears to be a cacophony to the text. This is amplified when the choir does start to sing and the speech bubbles are shattered. This double page spread is brilliant, the colour used and the expressions and actions of the meerkats, in particular the choirmaster, are very telling. Line and colour combine together for full effect, from showing movement and direction to providing a visual element for the music.
All physical areas of the book are used, including the endpapers. The front endpaper shows one meerkat with its back to the viewer in the bottom left corner with swirling lines on the opposite page leading the viewer to turn the page. The back endpaper shows all the meerkats with this meerkat in the right hand corner and the same swirling lines on the opposite page coming from the book.
This is a fun, original picturebook for young readers. It makes a great read aloud, and will certainly be a first independent read for some young ones. An absolute must for school and public libraries.
- Before reading, look at the front cover. What do you know about meerkats? What do you think the characters might be like? What might the choirmaster be like?
- Look at the front end paper. What are the swirly lines? What might they mean, or represent?
- Have the class, or group of children, act out the book as it is being read.
- Research meerkats for homework. Have the children bring in 3-5 interesting facts about meerkats to be displayed.
- Would you have let the other animals join your choir? Why? Why not?
- How do you think the choirmaster felt at the end? What do you think he/she will do next? What would you do if you were the choirmaster?
Read Emily Gravett’s Meerkat Mail (2016, Pan Macmillan).
Useful websites for young learners
National Geographic Kids – Use the search bar to find information about meerkats.
Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending this book for review.
For more information on intraiconic texts, see my review of Don’t Cross the Line! for Reading Time.