Toto’s Apple by Mathieu Lavoie

toto apple

Every time a foreign children’s book lands on my doorstep, I think of Daniel Hahn, author of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, translator, and a key advocate for imported fiction. He’s certainly right in that there are some gems being published abroad to which the UK’s children deserve access.

This is one such book – a marvellous picture book that extols the virtues of grit, determination, and overcoming failure, yet also providing a witty text and a surprise ending. It reminded me of You Can Do It, Bert by Ole Konnecke.

Toto is a worm attempting to get an apple. His first issue is position.

“The apple is up high.
Toto is down low.”

Each time Toto comes up with a plan – he is a very resourceful worm – and each time the plan fails. The plans are nigh on ridiculous and at the same time wonderful. Toto transforms himself into various other objects or animals in order to obtain his apple. None works. In the end, Toto does get his apple – but simply by a piece of good luck. After all the effort he’s put in though, he pretty much deserves it.

The book doesn’t end here though – it finishes with a rather surprising and whacky twist.

The beauty of this picture book lies in several elements all coming together. The text is delightfully minimal, the illustrations are blocks of bright colours – easily identifiable objects with minimal detail and plenty of white space – both aspects making this a pacey picture book. The white space and minimal text combine to give plenty of opportunity for the readers to discuss what they think will happen, as well as what they would have the worm do next.

Other factors include the playfulness with opposites, and the transformations of the worm – these will inevitably lead creative sorts to experimenting themselves with turning simple block images into other images. The illustrations were made using gouache – a type of opaque watercolour – and it enhances the story beautifully. The blocks of colour can be seen even at the back of the classroom, and close-up they hone the attention.

This is an excellent picture book for young readers. I’m cheering on Toto, even though he’s a worm. Find out how Lavoie created it here. You can buy a copy here.

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