Rita Wants a Robot / The Toys’ Christmas

Rita Wants a Robot
Màire Zeph and Mr Ando
Graffeg

Rita is a small girl with a big imagination and a head full of ideas. Her latest is a ‘super-sorting’ robot: something that would tidy up the ginormous messes she creates in her bedroom thus putting paid to mum’s repeated chastisements. There is a stipulation however; said robot mustn’t spoil Rita’s fun by creating hyper tidiness, so he’d need to know when enough was enough or risk her wrath. Of course, said robot would need to be an appreciator of wildlife, as well as never overstepping the mark, for doing so would land Rita in big trouble.

Then there are special considerations at the approach of the festive season: who would want a Christmas saboteur robot, albeit a well-intentioned one? Definitely not Rita: maybe time to have another think about the whole robot-sorting idea …

This is another fun episode in the imagined life of Rita conjured by author Màire Zeph and illustrator Andrew Whitson (Mr Ando) that will be enjoyed by youngsters around the age of the protagonist. This adult reviewer wouldn’t mind a brief visit from Rita’s super-sorting robot to work on my partner’s super messes, although it would need to be kept a close eye on, I suspect.

The Toys’ Christmas
Claire Clément and Geneviève Godbout
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

It’s Christmas Eve but rather than feeling excited, little Noah is very worried and upset: his favourite cuddlesome toy elephant Fanfan is nowhere to be found. Despite his mum’s reassurances that his absence is only temporary, Noah isn’t convinced.

Meanwhile, outside in the snow Fanfan is on his way to an important meeting when he hears a voice asking for help. It’s toy rabbit Mr Long Ears with a bad foot, upset at the possibility of not getting to the meeting on time and of course the kindly elephant offers him a lift and they reach the clearing where the other toys have gathered just in time for the long journey.

Why are they, along with toys from all over the world, out on this chilly night when they could be snuggled up with their children? 

They’re on a special mission to see Santa to tell him what their owners want for Christmas, but they also need to make sure they get back home in time for the big day.. What will Noah discover when he wakes on Christmas morning?

An unusual story illustrated in soft focus pastel by Geneviève Godbout whose art here has an olde-worlde charm.

Rita Wants a Witch

Rita Wants a Witch
Máire Zepf and Mr Ando
Graffeg

Rita is a small girl with a very big imagination and she uses it to ponder the possibilities of having a witch in the family. The witch she desires is of the wild sort and thus, instead of sending her off to bed she’d allow the child to whizz around all night on a broomstick; no household chores would be required, only her assistance with spell brewing. But said witch would never ever do mean spells, only ones like this –

she’d never give her bad dreams or scare off her pals.

What though if on the other hand, this witch turned out to be inept at tending to a poorly Rita, a meanie who wanted her apprentice to follow her unpleasant example, and whose cooking was decidedly unappetising.

There’s absolutely no knowing what might transpire if such a witch came into Rita’s life.

Better perhaps to have another think, toss out those notions of magic potions and settle for something much safer …

In addition to being a fun book for sharing with foundation stage children around Halloween time, this is a story with a maternal theme that shows just how much mums really do for their little ones. The vividness of Rita’s imagination that emerges in Máire Zepf’s first person narrative is mirrored in Mr Ando, aka Andrew Whitson’s humorous, sometimes mock scary scenes of witchy prospects for which he uses suitably bright garish hues.