Malachy Doyle and Hannah Doyle
Author Malachy Doyle has collaborated with his daughter, illustrator Hannah Doyle to create this timely thought-provoking book.
How would you feel if you landed up alone in a place where nobody else speaks the same language as you? Terrified probably, and so it is for Little Skunk who is left behind on a railway platform when the train taking his family has departed.
The other animals are reluctant to respond to the tannoy message for help from the stationmaster for anyone speaking Skunk to come to his aid. Little Bel Badger doesn’t want to assist because, so she tells her Mum, “He smells”. Mum explains it’s on account of him being frightened and then Bel offers to try.
The little skunk is clutching a photo as Bel listens to what he has to say and does her very best to make sense of his words.
With Hare and Rabbit’s help, she works out that it’s a family photo and that they’ve gone off in a train accidentally leaving him behind in the loo.
Words of reassurance follow and a promise from the stationmaster that he’ll ring through to the next station and get the train halted there.
When the next train arrives all the animals climb aboard with Little Skunk and en route change their minds about him.
After a journey of anxiety on Bel and Little Skunk’s part they reach their destination and ‘Hurrah!’ The skunk family is re-united.
But there’s a pleasant surprise awaiting Bel too. “Ootch Cootch!’ Good on Bel for standing against prejudice.
This tale has much to say to us all, child and adult, in these troubled times when all too many people are quick to form judgements about anyone at all ‘different’. After all we’re all different and we all need to embrace that difference, accommodate others, learn about and from them. That way lies the route to making not just our own country but others, a better place; a hopeful place with better times to come.
Told and illustrated as it is, with gentle, warm-hearted humour, a topical picture book like Malachy and Hannah’s is a good place to start. (By the way ‘Ootch cootch’ is Skunk for ‘hug’).