My first impressions of this book are glee and delight: the big, bright book is adorned with holographic lettering and glittery lines on the illustrations, making it instantly dazzle in the light and catch my attention. This gives the impression that a lot of money and time has gone into this book, and along with the cute illustrations of the character on the front, this book will stand out in a line up or on a shelf.
The book is about a naughty narwhal who realizes it’s better to be nice and have friends then be naughty and alone. It’s a nice story to teach kids something they already know and are told quite often. Nothing new or exciting in the premise but a nice story all the same. At first, I thought the narwhal on the front was not really recognizable as a narwhal. While I appreciate the book isn’t going for ‘realistic’ animals in the pictures, it’s such a far throw that without the title it would be hard to tell what the character was. It’s sort of like a pink blob with a unicorn horn. I would like children to be able to learn a bit about the sea creatures in the book, but they’re just there for fun and not really essential to the story.
The illustrations are of a very high quality. They’re beautiful, colourful and bright. They have a great level of detail without being overcrowded and are a delight to look at on every page. Each little character has a unique expression even in the very corners of the book, and I can see little children enjoying hunting for creatures as a carer or parent reads the book to them. I tried to find something critical to say about the illustrations but I really couldn’t find much at all – they are fantastic!
The text is in a simple font that is easy to read for all ages, although there are some additional text in the illustrations (for example, signs and character noises) that are in a similar font which I found a bit distracting. For early readers it may be confusing to understand what is to be read and what is part of the illustration. One way of combatting this would be to have the signs and illustration text in another colour other than black, or an obviously different font. This is made a little worse by the way the text splits and bends around the pages. A younger child would miss parts of the text. That said, keeping the text in one place is quite restrictive and boring, so I like that they have tried to keep to keep the book fluent and fun. Perhaps the text should be a little bigger, or more obvious in placement. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but the best books are often the ones that children can follow along with the adult and eventually read themselves, whereas I think the text might put off early readers.
The words are fun to read out loud. They rhyme well and make a fast, playful rhythm which an advanced reader could read almost like a song! However, I come back to the same point as above, that someone who wasn’t as good at reading might struggle a bit and trip over their words. I tried reading it aloud several times and it was only by the third read through did I not make any mistakes as I had a better idea of where the words were placed. The sound when you do get it right though, creates a really enjoyable melody that would even help some readers enjoy books more.
The main character, a naughty narwhal, is obviously female. A lot of books still sway to male main characters even with animals, so that is nice to see without it being a main focal point. I get the impression she is a young, confident little girl (narwhal) who is a bit young and self-centred, almost like a spoiled 5-year-old who is used to getting their own way. In that sense, I didn’t really like her character so much. She appeared a bit mean and brat-like. Not something I would advertise to children as being funny or acceptable. When she is mean to her friends, she hits one of them on the head at one point. It’s played down in the book as a ‘bop’ on the head, but I dislike the blasé attitude to physical violence, albeit not serious.
While mean and rude, the narwhal soon finds herself alone and scared and facing a shark. It’s something that children can relate to; be mean and your friends will leave, and the positive message is wholesome, although a little obvious. I wanted there to be something more to the story. Some action or turning point that created a build-up of energy, yet I felt like it never really led anywhere and once she came back to apologise to her friends, I was a bit unsatisfied. I think that the brilliant illustrations made up for this lack of content, they almost carried the whole story along better than the text which is what good illustrations should do. I have read so many books like this now, that I find them predictable and crave to see a bit more creativity or some straying from the default ‘be nice or you’ll be lonely.’ Even depicting the shark as a scary bad guy is old news and has been overdone. A real Narwhal’s main predators are whales and polar bears; yet the whale is one of her friends in the beginning. I appreciate it’s not a real-life educational book, but it might have added some new element if the enemy was a polar bear or she had something more exciting happen to her which made her decide to need her friends.
Overall, I felt like the story didn’t really live up to the high expectations I had when I first saw the book, but it was still a good experience and I wouldn’t regret buying it for a child. The lovely illustrations are worth it alone, and while I don’t think the words will be ones you remember fondly and carry with a child to adulthood, the book could easily become a favourite for reading time with small children.