Precious Little wanted to fly
but she was only a circus hand.
She worked for the Light Fantastics. Every night she watched them flash through the air.
They walked the high wire and did swan dives and double somersaults way up in the big top.
They were brave and strong and they never looked down.
Precious Little is part of the circus, but not the part she’d like to be. While others tumble and spin in the air, she is cleaning shoes and retrieving fallen sequins. She tries, but her efforts are clumsy and awkward compared to these high-flyers. It seems she will never be more than an assistant. Others ask her to join their acts, but it’s an aerial performer she wants to be. Then her friends, Fat Chance and Tough Luck offer her the opportunity to try out her skills on a rope stretched across the top of their lucky dip. Gaye Chapman’s illustrations burst from the page, spinning and twirling like the best circus act. She uses every part of every page in an explosion of colour and movement. For Precious Little she used sepia ink line drawings, acrylic ink plus tea-stained paintings and collaged metallic papers.
Precious Little is a very rich offering. The co-written story is poetic and filled with wonderful names from Precious Little herself (which can be interpreted as nothing or everything) to Fat Chance and Tough Luck, faded old characters who mother Precious Little. The illustrations fill each opening, with text ribboning across and around the page, like the music that floats through a circus tent and beyond. The front endpapers show the circus tent and a high tower with both seen at a distance set in a road-crossed landscape. The end endpapers show the same landscape but Precious Little is now inside with her friends, part of the circus rather than a wishing observer. This a picture book for slightly older children, though younger readers will enjoy the rhythm of the language and the sumptuous illustrations.
Precious Little, Julie Hunt & Sue Moss, ill Gaye Chapman
Allen & Unwin 2010
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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