Little Owl falls out of his nest whilst asleep, and when he bump bump bumps to the forest floor he can’t find his Mummy anywhere. Fortunately Squirrel is on hand to find her – although not without making some fairly wide-of-the-mark suggestions first.
There is a long list of awards on the back of this admittedly very pretty picture book. Bisto Book of the Year, the Eilis Dillon Award for a first Children’s Book, a Booktrust Best New Illustrators Award 2011, and winner of the Association of Illustrators Children’s Book Gold Award. The Irish Times described it as ‘A stunning literary and visual achievement’.
The quirky design is so striking that at the time of writing Little Owl is the Booktrust Twitter feed avatar.
Many others on Amazon have noticed the same problem, however: A Bit Lost is the same story (with the addition of some convivial biscuits) as Julia Donaldson’s Monkey Puzzle. The latter is a such a rich, detailed book that it is extremely difficult for this very simple story not to be overshadowed by it.
That said, A Bit Lost is very, very subtle in its visual narrative. Where Monkey Puzzle dazzles with words, this charms with pictures. Squirrel’s arm stretches pointedly as he suggests potential parents; Frog’s eyes bulge comically; and when Mummy Owl is found she appears huge and inviting with outstretched wings. The pared down text has appealed to at least one three year old (although bought for her sister) who insists on being asked ‘Is that his Mummy?’ every time so that she can call out “NO! That’s a BEAR!” And the little cyclical joke at the end as Little Owl closes his eyes and starts to tip sideways off his perch once again makes for a tidy finish.
The similarity with Monkey Puzzle makes it difficult to shower Chris Haughton with praise for any originality (although to be fair both books seem to owe elements to PD Eastman’s ‘Are You My Mother’ from thirty years earlier) but his execution is without doubt both effective and attractive.