Here's a wonderful picture book from one of my favourite Australian authors, Hazel Edwards. Perhaps you know her classic, There's a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake? Plato the Platypus Plumber (Part-time) is the latest publication from this versatile and prolific writer. It was illustrated by John Petropoulos and published by Interactive Publications, 2010.
I love the quirkiness of this book. Plato is a special kind of plumber, one who fixes not only leaking pipes, but also grumpy people. His tool kit backs this up, with spanner and hard hat alongside some smile spray and a jar of happy. Plato's human friend, Zanzibar, lives in a house that is constantly being renovated. So Zan and his family need BOTH of Plato's skill sets.
Plato the Platypus Plumber (Part-time) is multilayered - a delightful fantasy about a friendly platypus, interwoven with opportunities for kids to learn about taking care of the environment. Some toilet humour is inevitable in a book about plumbing - kids will love it, and teachers and parents will appreciate that it is handled gracefully by Edwards.
Water has secrets … and memories flood downstream with the creek.
Children are fascinated by water, by both its power and mystery, and its practical uses. Plato the Platypus Plumber taps (ahem) into that fascination. There are so many interesting features in the book, the kind you pick up after repeated readings. Apart from the beautiful quote above that ties the book together, children will love delving into Plato's life as an eco-warrior and extreme monotreme, and finding out about such platy-problems as feral cats and plastic bags. It's a strong environmental message, but never preachy.
Petropoulos' crayon drawings are vibrant, adding to the book's humour and charm. My favourite page is the one where Plato sidesteps some feral cats and distracts them with a joke. Each page is full of life and colour, with cartoonish details to make us grin. Petropoulos actually developed the font from his own daughter's handwriting, giving the book the look of a hand-written journal.
Plato The Platypus Plumber is just calling out to be shared with kids. Schools will love it, as it supports studies on water, Australian animals, and jobs that people do. I think boys will be especially attracted to the plumbing details and Plato's encounter with sludge, 'the yucky stuff'. It's also a perfect book for following up with creative ideas for water play. Yet another bonus is that the publisher's website has a Teacher's Guide and a Classroom Play Script available as free downloads. Don't you love it when publishers add value to books that way?