Fiddle Dee Dee!

Fiddle Dee Dee!
Dianne Hofmeyr and Piet Grobler
Otter-Barry Books

This trickster tale featuring a clever monkey had its origins in a collection of South African folktales but for her retelling, Dianne Hofmeyr has changed the villainous wolf for a hyena.

Monkey comes upon a strange-looking object while digging around beneath a tree. As he plucks it out comes a sound, “Fiddle dee dee! Look what I see! / A musical bow. / Lucky monkey! Lucky me! / Luckiest monkey in the whole country,” he sings.

Along comes Hyena claiming the bow to be his and threateningly accusing Monkey of stealing it.

To solve their dispute,Tortoise advises them to consult Lion and off they go to find him.

Lion however, is not the fair and just creature he’s reputed to be and demands the bow for himself.

Monkey begs to be given a final chance to play the instrument and Lion accedes.

The music he plays enchants the other animals, including Lion and they start to dance. Monkey plays faster, the creatures dance faster and faster

and eventually as night falls, they’re all completely exhausted.

Taking advantage of the situation Monkey makes another request and finally secures the bow once and for all.

In her usual animated fashion with plenty of dialogue, Dianne Hofmeyr has refashioned this folk tale from the African continent that is a lively read aloud. Grobler’s scratchy characters are a mix of endearing humour and downright scariness. They certainly snare the attention and whether one is alarmed or amused, each scene offers a wealth of quirky detail to pore over.

Tiger Walk

Tiger Walk
Dianne Hofmeyr and Jesse Hodgson
Otter-Barry Books

Tom’s visit to an art gallery and Rousseau’s famous painting, Surprised! inspire the boy to create his own large tiger picture.

Little does he imagine though that this is to lead to an amazing nocturnal adventure, for out of the shadows in his bedroom appears a large, stripy animal inviting him on a moonlit walk.

Somewhat fearful by nature, Tom mounts the tiger’s back and off they go into a forest alive with bears, foxes and lions.

In the tiger’s company they turn out to be playful rather than the scary creatures Tom has anticipated.

The adventure continues with a river crossing,

a fairground ride and an encounter with what seem at first to be frozen tiger forms.

All of these too engender fearful feelings in the boy, but somehow with his own tiger friend beside him Tom is emboldened. He swims, flies round and around aboard a merry-go-round and dances in an icy cave till sleep overcomes him and it’s time to return home.

Your senses are immediately stimulated as you start to read Dianne Hofmeyr’s dramatic present tense telling of this entrancing tale of a little boy’s transformation from fearful to fearless; and with the side lining of art in the curriculum it’s fantastic to see a painting such as this one of Henri Rousseau’s used as the starting point for the story. Suspense is built by variation of sentence length and conjunctions strategically placed at page breaks, while Tom’s anxious “I’m a little bit scared of …’ iteration followed by tiger’s assurances add to the power of the narrative.

Jesse Hodgson’s arresting tigerish scenes are more mannered, bright and colourful than Rousseau’s windswept, storm-tossed jungle and have just the right balance of ferocity, realism and reassurance as befits a bedtime story.

The Glassmaker’s Daughter

The Glassmaker’s Daughter
Dianne Hofmeyr and Jane Ray
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Daniela is the daughter of a glassmaker living in Venice in the 16th century. So full of melancholy is she that her despairing father offers a glass palace as reward to the first person who can make his daughter smile. The palace is duly fashioned and people come from near and far to try and bring on that smile.
A flame swallower, a mask maker, a lion-tamer followed by ‘Glove makers, tart bakers, trumpet players, dragon slayers, monkey trickers, pocket pickers, bell ringers, opera singers, even sausage stringers‘ all fail miserably.

Then along comes young glassmaker, Angelo with the looking glass he’s carefully fashioned as a gift for Daniela. Now the girl has never seen such a thing before, nor has she seen the sight that meets her eyes when she looks into it as Angelo instructs. At first it’s her cross face that stares back, then as she begins to smile, so too does the mirror;

and when her smile gives way to laughter, the effect is truly dramatic in more ways than one …

And before long, the entire city of Venice is one laughing, dancing, ringing celebration of joyfulness.
Diane Hofmeyer takes a familiar fairytale theme and like Angelo in her story, fashions it into something new and special. We all know that true happiness lies within but it’s good to be reminded sometimes, especially in such a captivating way as this. (An introductory note gives some information about historic Venetian glassmaking.)
Jane Ray’s intricate images and vibrant scenes conjure up the fairy story-like Venice of the setting making every turn of the page both magical and memorable.