Read of the Week

An Extraordinary Egg, Frederick and Swimmy

Leo Lionni


Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

We have a new favourite children’s author at our home – Leo Lionni has earned a spot, right up there with Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl.

In November last year Jacana reprinted three of the acclaimed writer’s books, An Extraordinary Egg, Frederick and Swimmy, all of which had been out of circulation for more than 50 years, they say. Our family are exceptionally happy that they did because what a find Lionni’s books are.

By the time I had read the last of the three to my children, I wondered why we had never discovered his more than 40 children’s books before.

Lionni wore many hats, including artist and children’s author. He was born in Holland but lived in both Italy and America.

He won the 1984 American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal and was honoured posthumously in 2007 with the Society of Illustrators’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

He is also a four-time Caldecott Honour Winner for his books Inch by Inch, Frederick, Swimmy and Alexander the Wind-Up Mouse.

He died in October 1999 at his home in Tuscany, Italy, at the age of 89.

Swimmy is the story about an odd fish out that turns the tide for his preyed-upon peers. It savours strongly of Finding Nemo and I have a strong suspicion that the Pixar crew may have been fans of Lionni.

The story of Frederick the mouse left me utterly charmed. The dreamer mouse initially seems unfazed by his family’s struggles to gather food for winter but months later, when the winter supplies run low, Frederick surprises his family with his unique hidden gift.

An Extraordinary Egg had my children giggling all over the place. It tells the story of three ditzy frogs.

Jessica is the main protagonist and her rambling adventures bring her friends, Marilyn and August, mostly mild entertainment until she finds something truly interesting.

Lionni’s books are delightful and can withstand repeated re-readings.