Picture book review: Rodney 

Picture book of the month: June 2021

Rodney, by Kelly Canby

Fremantle Press, 2019 

Suitable for: 3 - 7 years (early learning and lower primary)

Themes: Perspective, dreams, feelings, wanting something you can't have, changing your point of view, perception

Review by Robyn

 “All Rodney had ever wanted, all he had ever dreamed about, was to know a life among the treetops”

I know that one should not judge a book by its cover (or end papers) but this book has the most wonderfully vibrant illustrations, and the gorgeous endpapers with their contrasting lines and blocks of colour are strong and full of energy.

The book is filled with colour, scribbles and texture as we follow the journey of Rodney, a little tortoise who dreams of seeing the world from a life high in the treetops.

With the monkeys, birds, giraffe, sloths, squirrels and fruit bats inviting him to join them in the crisp, chill air up high, Rodney becomes despondent. He ‘simply wasn’t built for climbing’.

As he leaves the forest however, something happens and Rodney finds himself seemingly getting bigger. He realises he is now in the land of caterpillars, beetles and ladybirds, and Rodney has never felt so tall….

The text is simple, cleverly crafted and displays subtle humour: the birds sing, the giraffe hums, the monkeys screech, the sloths squeak, the squirrels bark and the fruit bats invite him to 'hang out' with them.

Children will delight in the faces of Kelly Canby’s animals peering out from the pages, and there is much to discuss with the changing text size reflecting how Rodney’s perception of himself and his feelings change as he travels and grows through the pages.  

Related units:

For teaching units of work that explore books with similar themes, why not try:

  • Snail and Turtle are Friends, by Stephen Michael King, explores the nature of friendship through the lens of nature of animals
  • Heads and Tails: Insects, by John Canty, is a playful and rewarding book that explores the world of insects through a fun process of clues and guessing
  • Plus, you can view the Teaching Notes prepared by Fremantle Press.