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  • Writer's picturePicture Book Snob

A tale of two hillsides

The Spots and the Dots by Helen Baugh and Marion Deuchars

The red Spots and the blue Dots live on either side of a hill. Afraid of one another, they exist separately and never mix. Each tribe believes the other will capture them if they stray too far from their own community. Nobody knows what the others will do, but everyone knows they are "bad through and through."

One day, baby Spot and baby Dot bounce too high and find themselves stuck on top of the hill together. Thanks to this chance encounter, "the world started changing in front of their eyes." The tribes learned they were safe in one another's company, became friends and "from that day onwards, they played and laughed lots."

The Spots and the Dots is cleverly structured so that the same story is told from two different perspectives. When the book is flipped and turned upside down, we see the same events unfold from the point of view of the Dots. Both narratives merge in the middle with a double page spread that reveals the conclusion. This is my children's favourite scene; no matter how often we read it they always get excited when they see all the Spots and Dots together. They love the interesting and innovative design as well as getting to read two books at once.

This wonderful story uses a simple premise to explore complex themes. A powerful parable about prejudice, it stresses the importance of not judging others based on their looks or perceived differences. The Spots and the Dots are essentially the same, but as is often the case with humans, their fear is based on ignorance.

This book demonstrates the harmony that can be achieved by communication and cooperation. Once their prejudices are dismantled, the respective worlds of the Spots and the Dots expand both literally and figuratively. No longer scared, they bounce as high and as far as they like, "and the whole of the hill to the top! could be shared."

The terror that each tribe has for those on the other side of the hill has lasted generations. It is instilled in all the children by their parents, but it is the children who ultimately end the cycle of suspicion and paranoia. This celebrates the promise of youth and delivers a hopeful message to the very young by suggesting that even they have the ability to bring about positive change.

Despite tackling a complicated subject, the story and its bright and bold illustrations are extremely child-friendly. The Spots and the Dots are remarkably expressive and manage to convey a variety of emotions through their eyes and mouths alone. The parts where they imagine each other as monsters and play games of mock battles are especially inventive. How the book is laid out and the way both stories merge in the middle is genius.

Author Helen Baugh was a copywriter for more than 20 years before publishing her first children's book in 2014. Helen cites Dr. Seuss and Julia Donaldson as influences. Illustrator Marion Deuchars also has a background in advertising. Marion's clients have included Royal Mail Stamps and Carluccio’s, and her work has won gold and silver awards from the Art Director’s Club, as well as four D&AD pencils.

Both my five-year-old and three-year-old enjoy The Spots and the Dots and it could be read to younger children too. The strong shapes, contrasting colours and gentle rhyming text would also appeal to babies and toddlers. My three-year-old is particularly captivated by this story, frequently requesting it and exclaiming, “It’s the Spots and the Dots!” whenever they see a polka-dot pattern. I expect I will be hearing that for many years to come! The Spots and the Dots is an exceptionally thought-provoking and beautiful book, with an important and relevant lesson at its core. This has "future classic" written all over it.

Title: The Spots and the Dots

Author: Helen Baugh

Illustrator: Marion Deuchars

Publisher: Andersen Press

Publication Date: 1st October 2020


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