India the Showstopper, by Kerry Argent

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Exuberant showstopper India is a star. When she plays the mouth organ, everyone in the zoo responds. Popcorn flies into the air, the animals perform their best, and horses dance to her “funky jazz, disco and hop-hop.” But talent and popularity are no guarantee of a good audience or decent financial figures, and Barney the ringmaster calls in consultant/re-trainer Oswaldo the Magnificent to set the circus back on the road to financial success. In her first written publication, well known illustrator Kerry Argent has created an evocative and funny picture book. India is full of human-like foibles that children will relate to, and Oswaldo is a great big rhino in leopard skin, just scary enough to be plausible and still funny enough to keep young children laughing until the end.

The story tackles a situation which children will be familiar with, and deals in a very positive way with the notion of change, insecurity, and problem solving. Children will love the animated characters, and the sumptuous watercolour and ink illustrations. The colours are soft and burnished, and the animals’ expressions add significantly to the characterisation in this rich story. The plot and language are simple enough to appeal to the very young, but still contain enough drama for an expressive reader to keep the interests of older children. There is plenty of detail to point out as well, including things like curlers on the poodle‘s head and tail, iced donuts for morning tea, or the interesting pot plants outside the animal’s trailer. India is definitely the star of the show though, and the feel good ending will make this story one which children will request again and again.

India the Showstopper
By Kerry Argent
Allen & Unwin
Hardover, ISBN 1865085960, November 2005, $A24.95

This review first appeared at Preschool Entertainment. It appears here with permission.