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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
You Can't Be Too Careful!
by Roger Mello
Age Range: 6-8
In this delectable nonsense-style story from Hans Christian Andersen award-winner 2014, Brazilian children’s writer and illustrator Roger Mello explores an idea he had as a child: that one small action can have marvellous consequences.
It all begins with a white rose and a gardener who never leaves its side even after he catches a cold from spending too much time barefoot in the garden after his cat has hidden his shoes. The cat was a gift from his brother, whose wife inherited it from her uncle when the latter died of love sickness, having waited too long for a love letter that the postman had dropped when he bent down to pick up a ring ….
The story continues in this vein with playful, adroit wordplay, (excellently translated by Daniel Hahn), reversing midway through the book to offer an alternative conclusion to the sequence of events. As the actions are manipulated to allow for a different set of consequences the book eventually comes full circle again back to the white rose where it all started.
Everything is deliciously complicated as the story follows a parade of eccentric characters including: Rajah The Malodorous, whose herb and sour-milk baths are prescribed by a ‘fake doctor’ to help him marry more quickly; the said doctor didn’t really want to be a doctor and had dreams of playing the bagpipes and a monkey ran away from the circus because the clown had stepped on his tail and the clown ran because of ‘the noise of the world falling on the floor’, which turned out to have fallen off the managers desk!
Mello does not rely on the written narrative to tell the story; instead inviting his young readers to fill the gaps with their imagination. His unique style of illustrations have an almost surreal quality with their striking use of soft textured colour and intricate line work conjuring up magnificent dreamlike images.
You Can’t Be Too Careful! is a complex and provocative book which is different, unusual and an absolute delight to read. As well as the infectious humour the consequence craziness does allows the story to express some serious elements about the dangers of greed and the importance of kindness.
This is definitely a ‘must-have’ book.
Honor Winner of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award 2018