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*Hello, Tilly (A Tilly and Friends Book)* by Polly Dunbar

*Happy Hector (A Tilly and Friends Book)* by Polly Dunbar
Also by Polly Dunbar:

Arthur's Dream Boat

Dog Blue
Hello, Tilly (A Tilly and Friends Book)
Happy Hector (A Tilly and Friends Book)
by Polly Dunbar
Ages 4-8 32 pages Candlewick October 2008 Hardcover    

I have recently come into my own as a grandmother, by having the chance to read stories to two of my three granddaughters (the third is still a little too bouncy for stories). There are few pleasures on earth more satisfying than to sit on a soft sofa between two tired but eager little girls and open one of their favorite books and read them a bedtime story.

From my first few ventures in this practice, I recalled that children love to see their own lives played out symbolically in story, with small but easily resolved conflicts and a conclusion that sends everyone to sleep with happy and comforting thoughts.

Polly Dunbar, who writes and illustrates the stories of Tilly and her friends ("Everyone wants to be Tilly's friend"), knows this formula very well. Her books are large, so easy for holding by at least three sets of hands, and the pictures are simple and easily comprehensible.

In each of these books (part of a series that also includes - coming soon - Pretty Pru, Where's Tumpty?, Doodle Bites and Good Night Tiptoe), there is a common set of characters: Tilly, of course, a sprightly little girl with stray yellow curls, red knee-socks, a green jumper and a red polka-dot blouse; Hector, a pig with a starry shirt and bright red boots; Pru, a bird with a penchant for jewelry and makeup; Doodle, a cheerful but overenthusaistic alligator; Tiptoe, a white rabbit with a striped shirt; and Tumpty, who as you might guess is a big blue elephant who wears eyeglasses.

In Hello, Tilly, we find our hostess (yes, she is the hostess or "mommy" figure, and each book begins with the satisfying statment, "Tilly and her friends all live together in a little yellow house...") sitting quietly, reading her favorite story. Of course we know this scene will be interrupted, as each of her friends in turn asks to be played with. Tiptoe has a drum, so Tilly jumps up on her chair and plays the trumpet (with big accompanying sound words that will be fun for children to imitate).

Hector joins in with a piggy jig. Not to be outdone, Doodle announces a feast. As the friends slurp away (Doodle is actually eating his plate, but never mind), they realize Pru is hiding under the table. The group troops off in a prance and soon bumps into Tumpty, who invites them for a ride. Things get pretty raucous for a while, with Pru dancing, Doodle blowing into the wrong end of Tilley's trumpet and Hector sitting on his drum, so Tilly asserts her leadership and suggests a story. It happens to be a very good story about friends who live together in a little yellow house... What a nice calm way to end the day!

In Happy Hector, we find an opening scene similar to the other story, with Hector sitting on Tilly's lap and feeling "the happiest I have ever been!" The other friends are doing well on their own, with Pru combing her feathers and Tumpty and Doddle playing with cars together. But Tiptoe craves some attention, and he wants someone to come and paint a picture with him. Tiptoe just isn't happy until he gets on the big chair with Hector and Tilley. But by now the others are a little jealous, and all of them - including the huge Tumpty - pile onto the chair, squeezing poor Hector out. He goes off by himself feeling pretty miserable, in fact "the unhappiest I have ever been."

His friends try to cheer him up with offers to paint his nose and comb his ears, but Hector is having none of it. In great big letters, he cries, "I WANT TILLY!" But Tilly is occupied... painting a picture... of Hector! Seeing it helps him regain that happy feeling, and he even consents to letting Tiptoe paint his nose blue. With his newly painted nose he joins Tilly in the chair, while the friends gather around but do not jump on top of him again. Everyone is smiling...what a nice calm way to end another book, and another day!

I'm guessing these books will be a wonderful bedtime read for two little girls of my acquaintance, ages three and four. Thanks, Polly Dunbar, for making that last important half-hour of the day a pleasant one for those two and many others.

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